Black Blood and Violent Intent [FT, Closed]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Black Blood and Violent Intent [FT, Closed]

Postby Huerdae » Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:31 pm

Crucible of Iron, CAS Theater Huerdaen Central Logistics Hub

Silvoya stood atop the residential module in Crucible of Iron, her eyes cast down on the bustle of the moving throngs below. Taken just as it was, someone would assume it was pure chaos, but she had started recognizing the Huerdaen culture for what it was. Order on the verge of chaos. Everyone down there had a job, had something to do, with the exception of the small groups of kids who would weave their way through. Even the elevated gun position at the center of the room, suspended between the ramps, with Imperial Force standing watch, had a specific purpose, keeping out of the way of the moving masses of the people who lived and worked on the station.

She always found herself surprised by the Star Empire, and this was no different. Crucible of Iron was listed as a 'Central Logistics Hub', but it functioned more like a massive, space-borne city and trade station. A good portion of the Huerdaen war effort had been supplied locally by allies and friendly nations, especially from the CAS and KEX. Because of that, the logistical station had turned into a massive trade station, with whole sections of the residential areas filled with merchants selling anything from surplus rations to combat forces. Here, the people of a dozen nations that had fought together now haggled and argued over prices as if it were a trade hub near the center of an empire. If not for the nearby displays that indicated the status of various ships in dock, she could easily have forgotten that it was a military installation.

Most of them had been pulled from other battle groups, unable to continue the fights that occurred, or taking damage from remaining forces. There were still groups of separatists who had managed to remain at large, striking at Huerdaen and allied fleets alike. It was a state of being that she had no doubt would continue for years. Rarely were a people beaten so completely that they simply stopped fighting without some manner of aftershocks. In all likelihood, there would be terror attacks, guerrilla warfare, uprisings, and political maneuvering that would last a generation, or possibly even more.

But that wasn't why she was here, or why she was studying the specifications of this 'battle group'. It looked more like the remains of a salvage yard, but it spoke volumes about the importance of this mission, and that scared her. Before her lay a list of a battleship, three cruisers, and six destroyers. Under normal Huerdaen doctrine, this did not count as a combat-ready battle group. It held enough cruisers for the operation, but the destroyer count was below minimum, and the battleship was still in critical condition, following a particularly clever Danaversian strike that had waited until it was in geosync, ready to fire an orbital shot. The ship had been in repairs for almost a month, and while it was now operational, it still lacked FTL capability, and much of the crew were replacements or slots yet to be filled. Even the captain and executive officer were yet to be allocated, leaving it in the hands of the current bridge chief.

Worse, one of the cruisers hadn't received her crew complement yet, and she was still fresh with her own 'Black-Shrouded Mother'. Still, as the highest ranking member of the battle group, she had been given command of the actual operation in yet another thing she wasn't quite comfortable with. And to top it all off, one of the destroyers was still showing battle damage, and two were actually modified civilian ships hired out as mercenary augmentation to the battle group.

It all felt like a significant fuckup, and yet, here she was, with a desperate strategy for a brutal strike. She had been assured that there were no enemy stellar forces in the area, and that this operation was actually behind Huerdaen lines, somewhere in the gray area between friendly nations where the patrols had fallen off simply due to the demand for the ships elsewhere. This particular world happened to be quite peaceful, and then it suddenly fell off the grid.

And now she was preparing a strike on it, with full authorization of everyone involved except for poor people in the strike zone. It was technically neutral ground, and she had been opposed, until they had told her why they needed the strike. And the answer to that put a chill up her spine.

An Ikittitl winger had been sighted there. This wasn't a phantom rumor of a particularly active civvie, either. It was a confirmed, pheromone-spewing nightmare on a populated world. They had gotten enough intelligence gathered to identify the ship used, but it had broken orbit and run almost as soon as they found it. Whoever was at the helm was as careful and clever as she had always been told they would be. But what was worse, was that the colony had started shipping out cargo to somewhere. This wasn't the only location. And if this Winger was half as dangerous as they had told her it could be, then a whole lot of people were about to have their lives ruined.

So she had her plan, such as it was. It had been organized with the garrison forces available to her, and she had found that in every instance, the planning of the ground assault was best left to the ground commanders. She'd delegated almost every aspect of the mission, and would be providing central control and support, but no more. Her job came down to flattening anything that the tried to defend too heavily, while kill teams swept for something of value. Two hours after the operation begins to purge the city, all units would fall back, and the area would be destroyed by concentrated bombardment. Her throat always felt dry at that part.

But even their garrison forces were thin, here. Their friends and allies came through on this count, though, supplying small strike teams to hit alongside the Shield in clearing the area. The Legion of Vengeance, who had proven themselves time and again to be as dependable as their reputation, had been quick to volunteer, as well as a newer, small-time levy that came from a mixed background out of the Kitsune Empire. Then a number of newer factions had come out of the woodwork, eager to shed some blood. She'd have to keep track of what information they were given, but it was enough to have the fighting strength, and maybe see what they were capable of.

She glanced at her watch, knowing already that it was time to head to the briefing. It was a useless action, and one that set her apart from many other Huerdaen officers - she still had habits from before she was augmented. She was aware that her watch wasn't showing the accurate time, but it was a habit from a life long past now, and it let her stand out just a little bit. A quick flash of silver on her wrist. She smiled to herself at the thought, and as she walked past the secured door to the military section, the Shield there saluted, both of them cheerily greeting her.

"Big sister, ma'am, you're first to arrive."

"Onee-chan, welcome back."

She gave them both a reproachful, but accepting glare, to which both laughed. She was probably the only captain in the Star Navy that wasn't called Captain. She had found that somewhere along the line, she earned a reputation for being the watchful big sister, picking up the lost and alone, and generally keeping an eye on those under and around her. It made her a lot of friends in the services, and had earned her first the title of a 'Dear Sister' among the Huerdaen. However, it was the Pankrees who had started using the term 'Onee-chan', making it more than a little awkward for her. Still, she had gotten used to that, despite some of the connotations that come with such a title. For good or ill, it was her reputation.

Her entrance to the meeting room lacked the jovial greeting, earning her only a salute from the two guards, and a raised hand from her XO as he saw her enter, signaling that the presentation was ready. At her side, her operation's officer was shuffling through datapads, looking them over carefully and organizing them to her liking. They seemed like they were preparing for any other meeting, despite her misgivings.

She barely had time to turn around before one of the groups arrived, and it was probably the most obvious of the group. Republicans were always recognizable on any Huerdaen ship, their sheer size dwarfing the single escort, with the shortest of them standing easily a foot taller than the SLT leading them. The man took it with quiet grace as he guided them through the door, reminding them to duck.

This group, she hadn't worked with before, but she had been briefed. They were led in by First Lieutenant Kyra Beauregard, and Silvoya took a moment to watch her move. Records also referred to her as Lt. Bow. Like many Republican officers, she had a confidence in her stride that set her out from lesser forces. She was direct, and gave off the impression that she was here because she wanted to be. A good start. As JLT Si'Halla handed her the briefing material, the other two ducked their way in, prompting the operations officer to have to quickly clone a third pad for the group. It took only a moment to complete, but the trio stood before Silvoya for that time, letting her measure them up. As an Ataster, she was almost 6" taller than her nearby counterparts, leaving her just shy of midway between the two groups - standing out in the company of either.

The other two were Sergeant First Class John Hood, a giant of a man who almost hit his head on the ceiling even without armor, and recognizable for his deep skin pigmentation. Even if not for those things, though, he stood out as probably the youngest Setulanite SFC she had seen, though that wasn't saying too much, considering her experience. And the last was a rather dour-looking woman, who her cybernetics identified for her as Chief Warrant Officer Germaine Ita. A gunship pilot, the leader for Bow's support unit.

They were all wearing their duty uniforms, easily marked out by the flaming skulls of the Legion of Vengeance in muted colors on their left shoulder, and the golden chevrons on the right. With the simple tasks completed, Silvoya stepped forward and threw a quick salute, pressing her fists to either side of her hips with elbows going straight back. In an instant it dropped away, and she had a moment to reflect how natural that felt, now that she had been doing it for years. The moment passed, however, and she looked up at the three.

"Welcome to the briefing, First Lieutenant, Sergeant, Chief. I'm Captain Silvoya, of the 'Black-Shrouded Mother'. I'll be in overall command of this operation, but your immediate report is Colonel Chitsuyu."

She gestured across the room to a man who leaned over a map of the target area without noticing the group. "I'm also in control of deployment, extraction, and naval as well as air support elements from the ISN. We'll begin shortly, once the other groups arrive."

Stepping aside, she let them choose where they wanted to sit or stand, with the room laid out simply. It was a smaller room, with a holo projector in the middle, and a ring of chairs around the edge. Outside the ring of chairs were four holo projectors in upright positions so that any discussion could be made by those in the chairs, without modifying the central map if need be. In short, it was a small, unassuming war room for minor operations.

Following them were two pairs of Huerdaen officers, one pair with markings for Heavy Infantry, part of the 1-1-5th, Home Galaxy, and another of a Mechanized unit from the 1-1-3rd, having earned their reputation with Fay'Shaila at Farazen. Their entrance went without significant fanfare.

On their heels, however, were the two officers from the Tezekian Directorate. Led by the heavily augmented Claws of Silver, the two drew more than a few interested glances. Much of the interest originated from the sheer difference between the two. Claws of Silver, with his missing wings and cyberized eye, seemed to have only his uniform in common with his subordinate. His subordinate, Claws of Brass, seemed like the poster-child of the Tezekian Directorate's recruitment. While they both moved with confidence, Claws of Brass was clean and fresh-looking, the sort of thing that the Huerdaen could imagine would draw all the lady birds to the nest. Many immediately decided he was probably the less trustworthy of the two, as they were handed their pads and gestured to their seats.

There was a short wait before the next group showed, but what came through the door put a number of people on edge. A drone followed its escort through the door, with a female Rhustarim close behind. Each stood out in their own right - the hovering, blade-like drone earned more than its share of uneasy glances, but the female was met with more interest. Like many cultures, it seemed rare for female Rhustarim to directly join the military, and that immediately set her out as an object of interest.

Her shaved head, visible vascular structure, and the wide array of cybernetics that integrated into the back of her head did nothing to make her any less obvious. Of the groups so far, the pair was the least approachable, and had earned little more than polite salutes and a quick hand-off of the mission data on a pad.

This went on for a little while longer, with Huerdaen officers filtering in, until finally the new Levy commander and her liaison appeared, a pair that were known to the Empire, if not Silvoya directly. Vii'Nogai was something of a recognizable name among the Imperial Shield, having fought in about as many battles as he had been promoted for...and then subsequently demoted for.

Sei Vydam had a bit of a file of her own here, having worked as a bounty hunter, so she was known. She had also recently done more than her fair share with the Shield, earning an effective rank among their number, it earned her a little more respect than most. Still, Silvoya knew that the pad handed to the newly re-minted Junior Lieutenant Vii'Nogai would contain details that didn't exist on Sei's.

Of course, that particular oddity didn't last long, as Vii took both pads and unlocked the additional information with his credentials before passing it to Sei. She had heard that the two were something of a package, so it hardly surprised her that the man would trust the odd woman with everything he had seen. Still, time would tell if he made a mistake. Perhaps he'd be back to sergeant again sooner, rather than later. Still, her files indicated that Sei was officially a Huerdaen resident now, so perhaps that wouldn't be an issue after all.

It was an interesting group, all told. A few 'friendly' nations, Republicans happy to kill anyone and anything for a chance to find and stomp out a ragged few exiles, the hodgepodge levy, and a few scraped-together garrisons that augmented local forces that had been preparing to deploy to other areas. It was in significantly better shape than her 'battle group'.

The thought made her smile as she moved toward the center of the room, clearing her throat. Turning to the assembled group, she found herself looking almost directly into the eyes of John Hood, who would have been of the same height of almost any other Huerdaen officer in the room, even while sitting. Chuckling to herself, she lifted herself up on her toes to look past him, making sure nobody was straining to see past him. Finding that wasn't the case, she began the briefing with a flick of her wrist at the central projector, causing the dim red lighting to lower as a yellow-brown projection of the city appeared before them.

"This is the city of Sheyalni, our strike target. A hostile cult of personality has taken control of the location and cut off all outside communication. While normally, we would be willing to offer terms, this particular 'cult' is known to be anything but peaceful."

Taking a step back from the image caused the view to zoom out, showing its location on the local landmass, near a large body of water and a particularly fertile landscape. Above it, designated in low orbit, were icons indicated the pitiful battle group.

"The enemy will not have capital ships capable of challenging our orbital supremacy, so our naval attachment under my direct command will be providing direct support. They are likely to have strike craft available, but we expect limited effectiveness to their defenses."

Moving forward again, she directed their gaze and the display to the battle group, bringing them in closer to show the formation they would be using, with the badly damaged Effigy of Shattered Dreams already showing critical damage, and marked even here as combat ineffective.

"The Effigy of Shattered Dreams will immediately move into bombardment position, deploying a trio of Helhammer rounds to the surface. This should eliminate the most significant enemy presence in the area. Nightmare Resurgent, a Deathwing-Class, will deploy anti-rad scrubbers to minimize damage to the world and ecosystem from this strike, as this world is not within the Imperial Domain. The flak-cruiser Dawn of Oblivion will burn her belly and provide close-support efforts during deployment, eliminating enemy strike craft in the process. This should isolate enemy elements to ground units, with the possibility of limited artillery and gunships."

She took a step closer to the table again, directing them to her own ship, notably not the battleship, but instead the Black Saracen-Class Black-Shrouded Mother, where it indicated a modular layout for a small carrier, as well as a number of bomber wings, including a heavy bomber wing.

"We will not be so limited. I will be able to allocate a number of bomber and heavy bomber strikes to the group at large. Overall, I expect to be able to deploy up to four or more bomber strikes across the city to eliminate hardened objectives, as well as one heavy bomber strike for suppression purposes. All units will have these available to them, but because of limited naval assets, we will need to ration them. The entirety of the operation should take no more than three hours following initial ground contact. After that time, we will begin our withdrawal and complete the operation with the complete destruction of the city and the remaining survivors of its two million inhabitants."

Her face turned grim at that point, knowing that not everyone would find that such an acceptable solution, so she continued. "That brings us to the objective of this strike. As you may have guessed, we are not attempting to conquer the location. It is ill-suited for our uses, and is best merely cleared of this particular cult. The world itself has many uses yet, so it is our goal to leave it largely intact, with minimal lasting damage. Instead, we are in search of a number of caches that the enemy has prepared to survive such an attack. During our strike, they will no doubt be trying to salvage data and back it up out-of-system, or evacuate the contents to a secure area. To this end, our destroyers will be running kill missions on any vessels attempting to exit the system."

Her face remained grim, or perhaps became more grim at that last part. "It is imperative that none of the caches remain. This brood-" she caught herself quickly, barely breaking stride as she directed their view back to the city "This cult has had more time to operate than any such installation in the past. This makes them particularly dangerous, and we can assume that the entire city's population can be and will be hostile to us, often at the expense of their own lives. There will be traps expecting our arrival, and the enemy is aware we are about to strike, so time is of the essence."

Indicating a series of locations around the city, she continued to speak. "We'll be deploying in three different stances. The Rhustarim, Directorate, Olosian 22-2-3rd Light Infantry, and" she paused, looking at Sei for a second, then shrugged "...Captain Vydam's unit, are the strike teams. The Mah'Lahn 29-4-4th Mechanized and 12-4-2nd Armored, Cheztop 8-2-1st Heavy Infantry will be used to suppress enemy responses and counter enemy action. The Home Galaxy 1-1-3rd Mechanized and 1-1-5th Heavy Infantry, as well as the Legion of Vengeance will function as reserves. The Legion of Vengeance is our reaction unit - you will deploy for a drop, and choose your target as the battle unfolds. The 1-1-5th is artillery and will be on station from several locations to bring support to those who require it. Each strike unit can call a Victor Target once to prioritize their own fire mission over all other fire missions. In addition, Olosian 22-2-3rd are supplying gunship support where needed, including a Blackbird and two Overlord variants. These are the tools and support available to our strike teams."

She spread her hands, bringing up the city itself, and by passing a hand over the top of it, highlighted a series of target structures and locations, most above ground, but one below. Also indicated were the target locations for the Helhammer rounds, revealing killzones specifically beneath the city, instead of in or in an airburst above it. Continuing, Captain Silvoya made a quick note of the support element deployment locations.

"The Mah'Lahn 12-4-2nd Armored will be coming down in a Conqueror here, northeast of the city on the plains while the dust settles. Using Rocs, as well as some modified cargo haulers, we will be deploying the Mah'Lahn 29-4-4th Mechanized and Home Galaxy 1-1-5th Heavy Infantry to the south in the foothills. The Home Galaxy 1-1-3rd deploy in the east, and immediately prepare for mobile combat action in support of the strike teams. The Cheztop 8-2-1st will begin an advance and purge operation from the northwest as soon as they reach landfall."

She took a drink of water before, surprised by how much she was droning on. After a few seconds, she continued. "Captain Vydam and her forces will advance from the north. There is what appears to be a hardened structure below ground that has been repurposed from the prior subway facility. This subway has been completely shut down, and most entrances are no longer viable. Your approach would be down this main street to this access point, where the subway used to connect with land-based rail lines."

As she speaks, she indicates on the map, the specified areas glowing a bright silver to set them apart.

"From here, we cannot identify the structure's purpose, but we have been able to confirm that it is going to be very heavily defended, both on the approach, and once it has been breached. During this advance, you will be in the same operating area as the ML12-4-2nd Armored, and they may be available to provide assistance if you request it."

The officer from the named unit gave Sei a respectful nod, making notes on his own pad as he did so. Moving on, Silvoya cleared the highlighted sections and moved herself to the western end of the city.
"Similarly, the Rhustarim will be deploying in the northwest, and making their way along the western edge of the city almost due south. Another fortified structure exists here, primarily buried in the ground. It appears its initial purpose was a weapon silo with possible ballistic weaponry, but we'll keep that from being an issue. Your concern should remain on the approach. The upper two floors of this structure are exposed above ground, but there appear to be at least ten to fifteen that proceed downward from there. We need you to work your way through this facility, and destroy or capture everything within. The facility entrance is likely heavily guarded, and could prove quite the obstacle."

Once again, as she spoke the path and objective became highlighted, indicating a structure that drove deep down beneath the surface. Moving once more, she positioned herself due west of the city, looking at it calmly before she began. "The Tezekian forces will approach from due west. There is what used to be an arena of sorts, most likely used for sporting events, that has been re-purposed. It now appears to have been fortified and reinforced against our attack. It is segmented against catastrophic loss, and our analysts suggest it is likely an armory. It is imperative that this armory not be employed against us. Also keep in mind, your southern flank is exposed, as that is a path we are trying to drive the enemy in retreat. To that area are large, open fields with little cover. If we can force them out into that area, they can be annihilated with greater ease."

This time she walked all the way around the city, to the eastern half, where she highlighted a single structure, and then passing her hand over the suburbia that led up to it, dropping in the icons of the Olosia 22-2-3rd.

"The Oa 22-2-3rd will approach from the east. Their flank will also be exposed. This leaves a retreat path southwest, southeast, and due south. With our reserve and support forces holding due south, it should split any attempted retreat under fire from our heavier weapons. Let us keep in mind that total annihilation can be achieved later - our objectives are paramount."

Her eyes turned back to the clearly Pankrees officer in the room, wearing a sash that symbolized he was a man of importance back home, as she continued. "Your objective appears to be a hospital, reinforced with an armored citadel within. Supporting beams have been added to the structure to allow it to survive our expected strike. We need you to enter that citadel and find out what they're protecting."

Taking a step back, the entirety of the plan was laid bare before them, with support paths, purge orders, and strike targets all highlighted for the group to see, identifying locations of interest. After giving them a moment to review the data presented, she spoke to the group as a whole, retreating back to one of the outer displays and waiting.

"Any questions in regard to this operation?"
Last edited by Huerdae on Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Huerdaen Star Empire is an FT Nation.

Xiscapia wrote:It amused her for a time to wonder if the two fleets could not see each other, so she could imagine them blindly stabbing in the dark, like a game of tag, if tag was played with rocket launchers in pitch blackness.

Rezo wrote:If your battleship turrets have a smaller calibre than your penis is long, you're doing it wrong.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Setulan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:46 pm

Crucible of Iron, CAS Theater

First Lieutenant Beauregard looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes lingering on the flaming skull on her left shoulder. It looked strange, and not strange in the way most new unit patches looked. It just seemed...foreign. She gave herself a rueful smile as she realized how apt the description was.

"From the beginning, Sergeant, please. I know you've had to do this a dozen times already but humor me. We are not currently in the 55th Drop Division. Right?"

The large man sitting behind her smiled, shining white teeth splitting his dark face. Sergeant First Class Hood was both incredibly patient and incredibly competent, which was why he had been given so many new lieutenants to break into command.

"We are. The 55th Drop Division of the Legion of Vengeance."

"Not the Planetary Guard."


"So that's why I don't get to wear the angry bear." Another smile. The sergeant had a good smile, and it came to him easily. The angry bear Kyra referred to was the regular unit patch of the 55th, a snarling black bear head. Some would think the question inane, but soldiers knew better. When all else failed, unit pride could always be counted on to motivate a tired trooper on a ruck march - or a battlefield.

"Right. We are not part of the Planetary Guard currently. It's all part of the deal. We're going to be fighting people the Republic doesn't have issues with. Imperials, Romans, Tics...the Republic has no quarrel with them. So how can Setulan's army fight an enemy who Setulan isn't an enemy with? So we're not Guard. We're Legion. Hell, the Star Empire even writes our checks using Republican Credits that they have on 'loan' from the KEX. Our equipment is either made on our ships or 'sold' to us - again, that's usually through the KEX, which had the equipment 'loaned' to them by the Republic. It's all legalese, but it keeps Setulan from another conflict it doesn't need right now."

"Ok, I can get behind that. It's ridiculous, but I can see the twisted thinking behind it. But how the hell do we explain me, or any other replacements? I just got here. I've been in the Guard for six years, yet I get assigned to the 55th Drop Division of the Planetary Guard. But it's not the 55th drop of the Guard, it's the 55th of the Legion, which is a foreign formation."

"Officially, you're MIA."

Beauregard gave her platoon sergeant a flat stare.

"I'm fucking what." This time she got a laugh.

"Missing in action, according to the Republic's database. We all are. Don't worry - they don't send your family the telegram. When you finish your rotation, you'll be found again."

"That is fucking ridiculous." A new voice answered.

"Right? That's what I said. You get used to being missing, though."

The speaker came fully into the room at that point, her baggy flight suit festooned with pockets and looking like she had just worn it on the flight line (which, Kyra knew, she probably had). Ita was a scarred woman who had been flying gunships since Kyra was in diapers. Though the young officer would never admit it, the woman intimidated her a hell of a lot more than Hood.

"And how long are we going to be missing, exactly?"

"Victory was officially declared two weeks ago. long, Chief? You're better with math than I am."

"Three years, nine months, and eighteen days." Hood nodded judiciously.

"Sounds about right." Kyra wasn't nearly as sanguine about it as her two noncoms, and her jaw nearly hit the floor.

"Almost four goddamn years? We're going to be fighting for the Star Empire for almost half a fucking decade? How the fuck did that happen?"

Ita and Hood looked at each other for a long moment.

"That's how long the HSE helped us fight the Exiles. We owe them."

"But four years..."

" a small price to pay." Hood stood up, towering over his lieutenant. "You don't understand, Lieutenant. You can't. You just got here. But we were stranded in the milky way, in the middle of fucking nowhere. We had no idea what was going on. No way to find out. Half our ships were crippled from internal exile strikes, and we knew the Alignment had a fleet hunting us. All we knew was that we were stuck in the void and likely all going to die, unable to do anything for the Republic. And then the Star Empire got to us, and they offered us a deal. They got us to the fight, and in return we fight for them an equal amount of time. I call that more than fair."

And oh had the Legion of Vengeance fought, Kyra knew.The Huerdaen auxiliary had achieved an almost mythical flavor back home even at the height of the war, when combat was raging fierce everywhere. They had dropped on the poisoned Qux worlds during Operation: Wrath of the Ancients. They had been the primary Republican contingent of Iron God 2, the assault that took the Destroyer Moon. Legion troops had dropped in defense of Maj Tarok, breaking the siege that had lasted for three months. Wherever the fighting had been fiercest there went the flaming skulls.

And Hood had been there for all of it. There was a good reason why a man just shy of 25 years of age had made a grade where ten years time in service was considered rapid advancement, and it wasn't just the Legion's high attrition rate. As they weren't part of the Planetary Guard, Legionaries did not receive Guard decorations but rather were awarded the odd Huerdaen awards, which were arrayed underneath the golden (more muted mustard yellow on the duty uniforms) chevrons on their right shoulder. Kyra had made sure she learned the awards before coming over, and John Hood had a sleeve full of intersecting circles and campaign markings.

Void Honors with Fire, two awards. Unity Honors with Steel. Unity Honors with Infernal, three awards. Void Honors with Wind. Void Honors with Steel, two awards. Iron God 2. Wrath of the Ancients. Low Tower. Kassa. Mishtanel. The man had dropped into every hell hole on the Fringe and come out of it with a rack of awards that would have gotten him on recruiting poster any other time.

"We need to get the briefing, ma'am." Ita brought Beauregard back to reality, and she turned quickly.

"Well, let's get this over with. And watch your head."

The walk to the briefing room was made in silence, and entering the amphitheater was done without ceremony. Returning Captain Silvoya's salute with only a moment's hesitation (with a few exceptions Republican military courtesy did not require salutes indoors, and always had the junior officer salute first), Beauregard smiled and took her seat, Hood and Ita behind her.

The rest of the group that came in was odd to say the least. She realized that the majority were all auxiliaries like herself, but it was still somewhat strange. The heavily cybernetic duo that came in drew her attention, followed soon after by the Rhustarim. Naturally enough it was Sei Vydam that drew the most attention from the trio of Setulans.

"Fuck me," Ita muttered under her breath, "That's really her. And him." She frowned. "Doesn't look very saintly." Hood snorted.

"Pretty sure that's made clear in the scriptures too, Chief."

"I guess."

Kyra chose to ignore the interplay and gave Sei only one lingering look before returning her attention to Captain Silvoya, though not without difficulty. While the scriptures of Saint Terramo may have made it clear that Sei was only mortal, that didn't make being near her any less strange.

Listening the briefing as it went on, the Setulan allowed herself a moment of introspection as to who they were hitting before she quashed it. As the old saying went, hers not to reason why...
"When you're as big as a Setulan, you can't go very long without breaking something. Usually someone else's face."-Xiscapia

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The Rhustarim Hegemony
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Founded: Aug 20, 2011
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Rhustarim Hegemony » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:08 pm

Crucible of Iron - CAS Theatre
Laya spent most of the briefing scanning the others around the room, trusting in Yaradir to hold on to the relevant information far better than she ever would. Silvoya, the Huerdaen who was doing most of the talking, caught her attention the least. Laya was familiar with humans as a species, if not the Huerdaen in particular, and she did not find her curiosity or interest piqued at her presence. Instead, she was much more intrigued with the arrival of the numerous alien cohorts. In particular the Tezekian cohort, with their plumage and distinctly 'avian' appearance (that was the correct word, wasn't it?) they stood out as something markedly different to anything the Hegemony had encountered before. The distance between the Directorate and the Hegemony almost matched the distance Laya and Yaradir had traveled to reach the Star Empire, and she wondered how the two knew each other.

That, after all, was the primary reason for her deployment. The Hegemony had little to no relation in the galaxy beyond simple tourism and the acts of a few reckless freelancers. Outside of a single treaty with the Valinor, a nation much, much closer to home, the Hegemony had almost no friends among the stars. Thankfully, this also meant they had no enemies, and Laya couldn't help but wonder if engaging in a military conflict was the best way to secure the former. She had consulted Yaradir on the matter before their departure, but the Sintellect had - with its typical humourless air - dismissed the concern.


And so Laya had dropped the matter and spent the week long journey reading up on the intelligence that Yaradir filtered through to her, interspersed with the occasional simulation of potential combat scenarios. The Drones had kept her physical training up to date while Yaradir kept her mind sharp, but she had still spent the vast majority of the journey considering the pros and cons of the engagement. She doubted her life would ever be in danger, and if it did wind up at risk Yaradir would have them both out of their without so much as a goodbye to their comrades in arms. Still, it was Yaradir's job to worry about the conflict and the actual combat scenario. Which left her with little to worry about save the people they would be fighting with.


"You're asking us to secure or destroy everything within the facility," spoke Laya, Yaradir nudging her subconsciously towards particular wordings and topics. "We can accomplish this without question, but is there a priority regarding certain materiel? And, in the event securing anything becomes difficult or an intangible objective, do you wish the structure to remain intact at the very least?"

Yaradir flooded her mind with a close up of the structural hologram, with the fortified entrance and the suspected number of floors. Another subconscious nudge, accompanied with a synchronised flair of her own neural lace and Yaradir's drone fields.

"We can probably hold the facility if it's fortified and we can enter it without too much structural damage, but is it more mission critical to hold it at all costs, or prevent its recapture while relocating in the event of a counterattack?"

>+I can't help but notice you're not asking about linking up or potential reinforcements.+


Laya kept her face neutral, but she wasn't overly happy about that idea. Certainly the drones at their disposal were largely sacrificial, but using up Hegemonic resources without a promise from their 'allies' as to their safety.... War Drones were not cheap, and while she would be immune from repercussions, Yaradir would not be if the operation proved to be mathematically imbalanced after the fact. She didn't want her companion Sintellect to be torn apart by the War DIrectorate for something their allies in the field might have been able to prevent. She didn't know these people, and nor did Yaradir. She had no doubt Yaradir would focus more on the success of the mission for their potential allies rather than what might come after. As usual, it was up to her to prepare for that coming clusterfuck.
Last edited by The Rhustarim Hegemony on Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
The Rhustarim Hegemony|State of the Galaxy
The only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Telros » Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:11 pm

No matter where one went, Silver found that lines and queues were eternal, no matter the nation or people involved and it would seem the Huerdaen were no exception. He glanced once more about the common area they were in, a short walking by military escort distance from the shuttle bay they had landed their dropship in. He could understand the wait, however, when looking at the activity going on around him. Beings of many races, creeds and allegiances could be found trafficking here; the brisk walk of the professional, the gasping pace of the desperate or the tired, and everything in between.

The list of ships with the various requirements for queued parts and the listless look and gait of bandaged bystanders indicated a conflict of some kind going on, and the commonality of these instances showed it was not a small or lackluster one at that. As the rumors stated, the HSE's militaristic influence could be seen everywhere, not just in the design of the station or its naming, but the common sight of Imperial Force going about their patrols or manning the gun emplacements, and the way the Huerdaen citizenry held themselves. If one was to be poetic, he could see they were much like the material they often used in their culture, cold as iron but unyielding and firm, able to tool or weapon, bringer of death or of bounty.

He was not, however, he left such frivolities to those who has such luxuries like Claws of Brass. His thoughts were disrupted by a series of insistent pings on his ocular interface. He must have realized Silver was ignoring him, damn. At least the chick was learning, it only took him a couple minutes for him to realize the Lieutenant Colonel had tuned out. The soft hum and glow to his eyes faded and the illusion of normal eyes reasserted themselves as he turned to face Brass. “What is it, Captain? We had plenty of time to talk on the ride to this system on the Herald.”

“I did, yes. You said nothing and stared a hole in the bulkhead.”

“Some find the need to fill silence with words, I do the same with contemplation. Less of a noise hazard.”

Brass made a very undignified sound and shifted to gain a better position to glared at him, but froze in mid movement and clacked his beak. Silver chuckled as he reached out to ease his second in command back into a more comfortable position. “You still seem to not be able to get used to the lack of wings yet, Captain. Keep moving like that and you'll tweak some of your back muscles.”

“Easy for you to say, you went for that mad bird’s full package. It was only the negative factors in combat that caused me to allow them to remove my wings and I'm still not sure if I regret it or not.” Brass reached a hand back to touch where his wings used to be. His talons met nothing but firm fabric covering angular metal, plastics and ceramic. Both were wearing their basic security uniforms, they wanted to appear non-threatening but seeing as the Huerdaen were more of a professional contact than close ally, precautions had been taken by Silver. Both wore a dark black Integration suit, seamless save for the lines of energy that could be seen spider-webbing out across the surface, showing the flows of both to their various implants and suit systems, with ceramic, plastic and metal vest around their chest and armored pads for their arms, legs, completed with boots. It was clearly the foundation for a more involved suit of combat armor, but the Director had stressed diplomacy so they had not gone out in full kit, much to the Lieutenant Colonel's annoyance.

“That was the deal, between Sable and I. You did not have to take up the advanced package, Brass. You were given the benefits and negatives and you decided to have them removed.”

The other avian shifted uncomfortably. “I know, it's were setting an example and it'd would have looked terrible to not follow at least somewhat.”

Silver clicked approvingly. “Amazing, you can be taught.” He waved off the inflating chest of Brass with a laugh.

“Merely playing with your feathers, Captain. You are learning your role well and what it entails off the battlefield as well as on. Besides, we are now finally getting a chance to put that particular upgrade to use.”

“Hrm, we'll see. We still have to see what this whole operation is about. At least according to Intelligence, the Huerdaen are loathe to allow outsiders on any of their ops like this, it's usually the HSE forces and their auxiliaries. The fact they're reaching out to us, when our diplomats are still working out the basic economic and political niceties, means something's up.”

“True, but it's also an opportunity, as you'll see Brass. We have a chance to put a foot in the door diplomatically with the power in the Delta Quadrant, continue PINNACLE'S evolution, and shake some of the dust of our veteran's bones for combat.”

“There's risk-”

Silver interrupted Brass. “There's always risk, as you'll discover. Opportunity never comes calling without some dice to roll.”

Further conversation was interrupted when a Huerdaen guard moved over to wave them to their next escort to take them to the meeting location. Both followed their guides without incident, Silver enjoying the odd looks he got occasionally. Avians were apparently an oddity in the Milky Way, it seemed. They were put up behind a group of absolutely massive soldiers, to the point of ducking under the Huerdaen's doorways, the irony being the Huerdaen were slightly shorter on average for humans. Their insignia registered them as from the Republic of Setulan, at least according to his info suite. He put a task in the background to gather data from their archive on them, so he could have some catchup reading later.

Behind them were two Huerdaen officers, who moved with the professional purpose he had seen time and again on the station, briefly interacting with the Huerdaen commanding officer up ahead. Then came their turn, and then came the glances and sizing up, which he briefly gave back in turn. Brass was quick to interact with Silvoya, handling introductions and taking the datapad. The intense scrutiny eased, as they were ushered to their seats, which both promptly sat into, Brass with some delicateness, trying to hide his sensitivity but with only mild success.

He held out a hand and his datapad was passed to him, which he immediately activated and began to pass through, doing an initial skimming run to get essentials before running a second time for details. This allowed him to keep tabs on the new arrivals, which the next brought interesting arrivals. Brass let his head whip around at the interest while Silver let his eyes flick up and raised his head enough to get a better look at what he was seeing.

There was a drone, robotic in construction, with blade-like apertures all over, clearly defensive and protectionist in nature. Possibly limited or full artificial intelligence, hard to say without a scan and that was not only impolite, but dangerous in this case. Both the drone and the female registered as from the Rhustarim Hegemony, an advanced star state that held technology which most Tezekian scientists could only dream of. There had been back and forth debates on sending a mission to open contact, but the ethics bans on certain technologies and the sheer unknown about such an isolated star state had kept them back from committing to one. And here first contact walked through the door.

Galaxy had a weird sense of humor to be sure. Judging from the response, the Huerdaen around were clearly not comfortable, something Brass linked him about over their neural net.

”B: Could it be the augmentations?

S: Unlikely. The Huerdaen use it rather extensively themselves. I think I read something about some cultural hang ups they have about modification but they wouldn't reject it outright.

B: Artificial intelligence then?

S: It's the most likely source, especially as that was a matter of some mutual interest in our initial contact with them, regarding our official non-AI stance.

B: Sable's gonna hate these guys.

S: Hardly, he'll just think they have some outmoded beliefs but appreciate the augmentation and everything else. The Director and Wings of Jade have more investment in ASCENSION than Sable does. It's hard to get his attention outside of cybernetics.

B: I saw him stare at an implant set once for three hours. The bird's got a problem.

S: As do you with the chatter. More are coming in.”

Huerdaen officers continued to trickle in, and followed the process. Entry, introduction, if any, datapad, seating. Soon enough, it appeared everyone was here and the Huerdaen captain moved to the center, preparing to begin the briefing. Brass managed to contain himself from audibly chuckling when she strained to look over one of the Setulanites as she began the briefing. It seemed a standard, if a bit odd affair, initially. Some cult of personality had taken over a planet, possibility of negotiation, which Silver found to be interesting for Huerdaen. It would seem if this was such a problematic cult, they'd smash it like all other threats they have faced. And as the briefing went, the situation got even more and more odd. No space elements to be concerned about so the Huerdaen would have orbital control, some strike-craft were expected, but they had brought their own fighters to help with their part, and with the Imperial Navy, it shouldn't be a major concern.

It was when they zoomed in on the battle group, which showed just how damaged it was, that Brass activated their link again.

”B: This isn't making much sense, sir. Why would the Huerdaen go so far as to bring in outside elements they clearly don't trust, refuse any naval help from said elements, and yet provide a battlegroup no commander would ever send out save for dire circumstances?

S: Indeed. This is quite strange. Continue that thought process.

B: I...okay? So far we have a cult of personality that has taken over a neutral planet that is somewhat close to their borders, but is far enough away to be ignored.

S: You have a fair grasp of things so far.

B: This cult has to be of something, have something, or want to do something concerning to the HSE. And they aren't telling us what that is.

S: You may be onto something there. Hold that thought and let the briefing finish.”

Silvoya continued with the tactical plan for the operation, with deployment of their famed Hellhammer rounds to nuke the major points of resistance, deploy scrubbers for maintaining ground operation capabilities and because the planet was neutral (something Silver filed away for the Diplomat Corps to chew over). A cruiser would handle air control, while a carrier would be able to provide limited air support in the form of four or so bomber strikes and one for suppressing.

She finished with the timetable and end of the operation, involving a strike to completely wipe the city. Brass' queries pinged once more, but he ignored them this time, leaning forward as the Huerdaen turned grim. She had to know this was pinging alarm bells with anyone not blind, there were too many holes in the intel, too much power being brought to bear too quickly with such thrown together forces to not require further explanation.

Then the answer came: orbital/escape denial. This cult was in possession of caches and secure evac zones, all being burned out, with ships running kill zones to prevent any escape. While this confirmed their desire for the destruction of the cult, it certainly didn't address the hidden topic in the room. At least, until a slip of the tongue mentioned a brood, which caused both officers to look at each other. With some of the....experiments being done by their benefactor, they had a fair idea of what it meant when that word was used.

Still too many variables, but there was something more beyond a 'cult of personality'. Silver cursed that he didn't have more here, some were more scientifically minded and could posit more ideas to give them a possible look into this. Ah well, they could do that later, fact was stored and the conversation moved on. The cult was long running, apparently and the entire populace could be hostile, traps were possible and they knew they were coming.

S: This is going to be one nasty fight.

B: That's putting it lightly, we're being told to aid and abet the murder of millions, sir!

S: I told you this might happen if you signed up for Ghost Company, I was quite clear what you may be asked to do.

B: But-

S: There isn't anything to defer about. The good Captain's slip up gives you all you need to know: 'brood'. It's possible we have mind altering affects; pheromones, digging to the nerves and brain, chemicals, a mix of them, we don't know. There is clearly something more to this cult, and when we don't have all the intel, what do we do?

B: We...We plan for the worst.

S: Exactly. And anything capable of spooking the HSE like this has to be very concerning indeed. Harden yourself, Captain, there will be much worse before we're done in our testing phase.

B:...Yes sir.”

Now came the fun part: deployments. The forces involved were them, the Hegemony, Olosian 22-3rd Light Infantry, and the unit of Captain Vydam were the strike teams, the tip of the spear. They would have support from Mechanized, Armored and Heavy Infantry elements to keep them from being overwhelmed by counter attacks, with more in reserve, along with a 'Legion of Vengeance' for being their reaction unit. Artillery was provided for support, including a single use of priority override for their position. Now more than ever he was glad he got the Director to approve them having their own mobile battery for their company; it wasn't the heaviest set of guns, but it was better than nothing. Olosian gunship support was also provided; good, but they had their own pack of Hunter Killers to provide some of that as well.

”S: Brass, make a note to inform Captain Silvoya our or battery and HK capabilities, in case we need to fill in gaps for support for the other teams.

B: I'll get it done when we have a chance, sir.”

She finished detailing element drop locations before moving to their actual targets. Vydam's unit would be hitting a hardened structure that was once a subway station, and screamed casualties all over. Due to this, there was an Armored Unit in the area they could call upon for support. The Rhustarim had another heavy target, buried mostly in the ground, with sections that would make approach difficult. Silver sat up when she addressed them, eyes flickering to reveal lenses zooming in on the tactical map.

"The Tezekian forces will approach from due west. There is what used to be an arena of sorts, most likely used for sporting events, that has been re-purposed. It now appears to have been fortified and reinforced against our attack. It is segmented against catastrophic loss, and our analysts suggest it is likely an armory. It is imperative that this armory not be employed against us. Also keep in mind, your southern flank is exposed, as that is a path we are trying to drive the enemy in retreat. To that area are large, open fields with little cover. If we can force them out into that area, they can be annihilated with greater ease."

It seemed they were all being given the toughest assignments and this one was nothing different. A hardened target similar to the Rhustarim in that it went further into the ground. It was an armory, of course it had to be an armory. Now add onto that their southern flank was exposed as an avenue they were driving the main elements of the cult, being large open with almost no cover. As she hinted, if they could drive the armory's forces there, they could be wiped out with greater ease. This meant, their options for retreat or movement were towards Vydam's or the Oa 22-2-3rd's target to the east, or back west but that led away from any friendly forces and could lead to possible encirclement or entrapment.

He nodded when she finished and continued monitoring the briefing, motioning for Brass to update their datapad. The Oa had it even worse in some respects, their flank path was also exposed and their retreat avenues led to their reserve and support forces, but that mean they could end up getting caught in a crossfire if the enemy was charging behind. Finally, the Pankree group were given the citadel that was once a hospital to take down, reinforced to resist the orbital bombardment and to find out what was inside. Silvoya stepped back and let the floor go back to them.

Surprisingly, it was the Hegemony who spoke up first, bringing up an important factor, where they secure or destroy everything in the facility. Each option allowed for certain tactics, the latter more than the former. It was possible for their company to pack enough explosives to set off the armory and make it into a giant bomb. But if securing was the goal, then restraint would have to be used, which meant more possibility of casualties, discounting that most of their company were robotic support forces. Once the female Rhustarim had finished talking, Silver clasped his talons together and spoke, his voice having just a slight hinting of electronic buzzing quality to it.

“I must agree with the delegation from the Hegemony, especially as our objective would seem to lean more towards destruction as a method of denial of both material, equipment and soldiers. Further, for our operational zone, is there any intel of what is west to the city? Should we need to move or retreat, our only real options to avoid the killing field are towards Captain Vydam's or the Oa 22-2-3rd's objectives.”

He paused, tapping on the datapad and nodded.

“Also, we wish to inform, if not already determined from the data we sent over for our part in the operation, we have a single battery of artillery and two...squadrons one would say of aerial drones we can use to provide support should we end up not requiring as much. We may be able to use it more depending on what resupply options the Imperial Navy has set up; we have enough to deploy three re-supply’s for our own forces.”

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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Huerdae » Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:47 pm

Crucible of Iron, CAS Theater Huerdaen Central Logistics Hub

Once her briefing was completed, Silvoya was left with a momentarily silent room, which left her on edge as to whether the briefing was that complete, or simply that bad. Finally, it was one of the Rhustarim who spoke up, drawing the eyes of the room. Staying at her position near the outer displays, Colonel Chitsuyu didn't miss a beat on responding to their inquiry.

Stepping forward, the man was clearly of Pankrees descent, though he lacked the usual grace that many said his people bore. Straight black hair and dark brown eyes made him quite average among his own people, but he didn't move with the grace that many expected from the Pankrees. He favored his right side, possibly speaking of an old wound in his hip that had not been addressed soon enough, and though it didn't slow him down, it made his gait easily recognizable. His voice cut through the air like that of a drill sergeant as he held his ground, refusing to take center stage.

"For all intents and purposes, this is a particularly brutal raid. From our perspective, we plan to glass this section of the world within minutes after withdrawing our forces, so holding the position retains no value to us. Instead, there are a number of key objects we wish for you to identify and recover. These are listed on your datapad, but the short answer is that we're looking for any manner of information storage to help identify where else may have been affected, any manner of research that was conducted, and anywhere that they may have set up an egg chamber."

That last part earned him a few glances, he knew, so he continued. "We have reason to suspect that there may be Ikittil, an insectoid race, that is behind a lot of the events here. If that is the case and there is a brood present, they will have turned the citizenry against us. This means that there will be no such thing as a civilian down there - everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, is an enemy soldier. Even a few Ikitittl can cause this to occur, but we need to be sure that we eliminate the chance of this spreading."

Taking a moment, he considered how much he could reasonably say, and forged on. "There is a high likelihood that they have seeded the atmosphere with contaminants around the city, so be sure you maintain full NBC status while during the operation. It should not be immediately harmful, but we should avoid prolonged exposure. Needless to say, we will maintain medivac facilities for those who require it, we have no intention of leaving anyone behind because of these contaminants."

"We do not believe that the Ikittitl will have access to a queen, but please keep in mind that there are two areas that could indicate the presence of a queen. An egg chamber is where they store their young, but many Ikittitl have been known to bring fertilized eggs with them, to allow them to deploy a labor force where they can. This does not indicate a queen. An egg chamber will be in an area that is surrounded by wet or moist dirt, or has an internal pool. Young Ikittitl live here for the first few days of their lives, eating the sand to obtain water, or drinking it from the pool or spring. If you see such a room, please report it, and perform an extremely thorough investigation. A royal chamber is where the queen would remain during the birthing process. It would have a concealed entrance from the egg chamber. If a royal chamber exists, it means that this particular group does contain a queen, and the threat level in the entire operation goes from minimal to extreme. It means that they may have additional forces we have not prepared for."

Letting that sink in a moment, he continued. "A royal chamber will be elevated slightly from the egg chamber, with a small tunnel leading from one to the other. A queen left with her eggs will destroy them. For this reason, they are tended where the queen cannot reach them. Often, the entrance to this chamber will be from an entirely separate route, so as not to endanger the eggs. The passage will invariably be approximately a meter in diameter, just large enough for a worker to drag an egg down it."

He hesitated, then sighed. "If you locate a royal chamber, immediately contact Huerdaen forces. We will need to run the purge operation on that location to confirm the kill. The other indicator that a queen is present is the identification of a nobility hall. This will be a long hall, often filled with large piles of objects, most of it refuse. There will be entrances on either side of the hall, many with custom-created entrances, and often with corpses near them. If this is recognized, a queen's nobility is present, identifying that a queen will also be present. Immediately retreat from this room. It is likely anyone who sets foot in a nobility hall will die if located by the enemy."

At that point, Colonel Chitsuyu dropped his formal stance, falling into a more relaxed posture as he gazed at the city map. "If you come across eggs, or any sign of Ikittitl, take a sample. It is important we have a sample of both active civvies and birthing civvies. It will allow us to identify how many VIPs we have to eliminate."

At this point, Silvoya once more stepped forward, taking control of the floor again. "As the Colonel says - we need biomatter samples from any egg clusters you identify. If there are multiple clusters in a room, make sure you acquire a sample from each. You will need to break open the egg to obtain a usable sample - only the mother's DNA is present on the eggshell. If you run into active Ikittitl, take a sample, though each team only needs to obtain one such sample. If you identify what is likely to be a royal chamber, contact our units immediately to perform a purge. And a reminder, there are no innocent civilians or bystanders down there, if it isn't from an allied team, kill it. They are quite willing to sacrifice their thralls for suicide attacks."

"We expect to see a city full of thralls - humans and humanoids who lived here, with only a few workers and soldiers. Thralls are what you would expect from any humanoid militia of the area. Their weapons will be the same, though their tactics will not include any level of self-preservation. They are cannon fodder to their masters, and slaves at best. They're always left behind because they're expendable to our target. I expect 95% or more of the population can be considered thralls. For all intents and purposes, they're already dead, and no longer have any recollection of their former lives."

Clearing her throat, she took another drink, wondering where she got so much to talk about. "Most concerning to us, however, are the workers. Workers have eight limbs, four legs and four arms, and are small, less than a meter in height and up to a meter and a half long. They, however, are both strong and intelligent. When fighting them, they are going to take up positions out of the way, using their small size against us, but we expect they'll be generally slow to reposition or fight with much of their cunning, as they are operating without higher leadership. Do not underestimate their individual cunning, even so. They are the minds behind everyday functioning of an Ikittitl colony, and can prove to be capable even operating alone. They use weapons comparable to a standard infantry rifle in power output, don't let the small size catch you off guard. They have been known to cling to sheer surfaces like walls and ceilings in ambush."

"Soldiers are almost two meters in height and around three and a half meters in length, with average strength for their size, but their carapace is exceedingly tough. Be sure to use anti-vehicle weapons on them. Also keep in mind that their nervous system is not in their 'head'. Despite its appearance, it is merely a gathering of sensory organs. A soldier can live and fight without it. The nervous system is contained inside the carapace of the thorax. This section of exoskeleton is exceedingly well armored, and has been modified over time to create a forward facing ridge down the front of the creature, to deflect attacks. They can also lock their joints and skeletal structure to fire weapons well beyond their size. I cannot stress how dangerous it is to face Ikittitl soldiers. However, they're also dim-witted and docile. Without leadership that can inspire them beyond their dull origins, they're likely to simply stand in a wall and shoot at us. It is their weapons and armor that make them so deadly."

"The enemy in this case may not look intelligent, but I assure you we are likely dealing with a genius-level intellect. You can safely assume that we're facing only the dregs, and what is not worth bringing along. We need to identify where the resources from this world are being taken, and what they're used for. Any active research going on here needs to be identified and thoroughly investigated. If the enemy has a lab here, we need as much of their stored information as possible. Any weapons or technology their using that can be captured will be helpful, but is secondary to the two prior objectives. Our final objective is elimination. We have no intention of taking prisoners."

The datapads given to the 55th Legion drop division and Sei also included basic information from prior intelligence of the colony, including the unmistakable ship from Sei's history, the Spinor. While it was marked as having left the system shortly after being recognized, there was no mistaking it was the same ship she had endured such hardships on. Notably excluded was any information regarding Tutukiku's caste, though a reference to 'Wingers' was left in, marking them as high priority targets for which orbital strikes were authorized.

It was then that the Avian spoke up, to which took a step back again, allowing Chitsuyu to respond as she waved the map over to the area in question. The area was a more run-down section of the city, packed with a series of older buildings in what was clearly more of an industrial and commercial sector. Many of the buildings had various forms of protection, from barred windows to barbed wire around the roofs. They were also exceedingly close together, and many showed less than a meter gap between the flat rooftops except across roadways. Likely damage was highlighted on several buildings, indicating that many were in poor condition, and would suffer from minor collapses following the strike.

This terrain continued out away from the city for some time past the Directorate landing point, dissipating into a small number of automated factories, most of which dwarfed the other buildings in the area. Here, Chitsuyu scowled, and waved his hands quickly, selecting each of these structures in turn and marking them a deep, blood red. "Falling back to this location is not suggested. Our enemies have well-documented abilities to make use of facilities like these to create 'accidents' that can match the devastation of any conventional weapon. There are countless areas to fortify in the dense areas of the outer city, that is our suggestion while you await recovery. Alternatively, if you can keep in contact and keep moving, the small alley should make it hard for your foes to track you while support in terms of strike craft and artillery are used to create an exit. Moving through the buildings is an option if needed, as none are fortified. The enemy's objectives will be to protect information and equipment until it can be evacuated, it is unlikely they are going to pursue with an intent to destroy."

Silvoya stepped in, realizing their fears probably weren't satisfied. "I have several craft which are purposefully unallocated, which will be performing medevac and retrieval operations. If you experience a situation beyond your capabilities to control and overcome, send up a beacon and-"

Before he could speak, Silvoya stuffed the meat of her palm into Chitsuyu's mouth, nearly punching him in the face as she did so. This caused a small amount of amusement from the Huerdaen in regards to what was probably some manner of inside joke regarding their precious 'Big Sister'.

Silvoya kept her composure, despite her hand in the fellow officer's mouth, and just adopted a Huerdaen scowl. "-the fleet will allocate resources to support teams that are in danger of destruction. There is no need for any audible call. A beacon will suffice. Please be sure that all units acquire a howler from our armories for this purpose. This will serve as a complete retreat order, and we will recover everyone at the location back to our vessels. There will not be an opportunity to redeploy. I'd like to personally thank you for your offer of assistance with your available support assets, let us hope they are not required."

Feeling that they had addressed all concerns, Silvoya nodded curtly to the group and pulled back her hand, dismissing Chitsuyu back to his corner to continue his planning. "Prepare your forces for deployment. Once all units are mounted up we will deploy. The sun rises at that city in an hour and a half. I don't want to be more than half an hour behind it if we can help it. Any additional questions, please forward them to my command staff on the Black-Shrouded Mother."

I.M.S. Black-Shrouded Mother, Black Saracen-Class Cruiser

The position of battlegroup commander was new to Silvoya, and more than a few people in the group knew it. On the other hand, most of those serving in the battlegroup had also seen far less combat that her. Some saw her as an almost mythical figure, having fought against the Star Empire before the Ataster were conquered, but those were mostly her own countrymen, and they were becoming few and far between among her crews.

She used to serve with almost entirely Ataster, talking of home and old friends, but over the years, most of her old crew had died, or left the ISN. What had once been much of her old crew on her old ship had all changed over Foer, when she had sacrificed her ship, her beloved High Charity, to protect the people of that world. More than that, she had sacrificed almost two thirds of the crew, as well. There wasn't a world in either Galaxy that didn't remind her of Foer in one way or another, and she felt it loomed over her as she sat in the command chair of the wholly foreign Black-Shrouded Mother.

She was one of the first Black-Saracen Class ships the Huerdaen had built completely from the ground up, instead of modifying a foreign warship, so few knew what ot expect from her. Her weapons far outmatched what Silvoya was used to, but she was a big lady, and had been the best fit for what was needed. Silvoya, for all her years, never really believed in the doctrine of the Huerdaen, preferring to have a large number of strike craft, like her old ship, and this monstrosity allowed her that. It also came with things hse had never imagined having to concern herself with. Two massive anti-ship assault turrets, as well as the full-size spinal. It made her wonder if others thought she was compensating, with all that forward-facing firepower.

But, it also came with things she only dreamed of when she served her homeland. The big warship could pull other ships through FTL with her, several ships at a time, or even link in with their shields to provide additional protection. In all ways, it was an upgrade from the aging High Charity, but she couldn't help but feel that it was a betrayal to her old homeland. To finally command a ship that had the full Huerdaen labyrinthine structure inside felt treasonous, like the last part of her homeland was gone from her.

She couldn't argue with the results, though. She'd fought for more people, and arguably saved more lives in Dread Black ships than she ever would have for the small Ataster nation. Not that it would excuse the wars that she'd fought in, which her adoptive empire had started, but she had to admit that she was making a difference here. It made it easier to sleep at night, at least.

The final ship checked in, and she glanced at her watch again, amusing herself with the realization that it wasn't even close to the correct time anymore. It said they were four minutes behind schedule...when in reality, they were seventeen minutes ahead of schedule. It made her sad, in a way. Even her habits were becoming cute little oddities from a life she no longer had. With a sigh, Silvoya spent a moment in silence before she rose from her chair, tapping the command to signal the fleet.

"This is Kommandant Silvoya to all ships, we will begin the operation ahead of schedule. All ships, prepare to Gate. Gate will commence thirty seconds from my mark."

Sitting back down and tapping the console to let out the ping marker, she felt dirty for giving herself the traditional title for a battlegroup commander. It wasn't always used, but the ISN had been making a push lately to bring it back into favor. The large number of fleet combats in the Exile conflict meant that it was particularly useful in denoting communication going to battle group commanders, as opposed to local or nearby ship officers. It allowed information to be identified more readily. It wasn't a bad idea, but it was very strange to her.

Moments before the appointed time, she felt the ship start to lean, as if it was pulling to one side hard, but it lasted for just an instant, and she was suddenly in the new system, in a hostile area. It was an experience that she had only started getting used to, as it only occurred when other ships were being taken through FTL with the Mother, but it still turned her stomach a little. Other members of the bridge crew looked equally uneasy, but it had never amounted to anything but discomfort. It would either be fixed in time, or they'd get used to it.

Tapping out her commands, the drum-like notifications began filling the halls of her ship, as deployments began almost immediately. She didn't need to glance up out the small, armored viewport to see the strike craft taking off and heading down toward the planet surface. She was more concerned with the battleship she was escorting. The vessel still lacked armor on its ventral section, making it vulnerable. Her eyes glanced to the readouts of the deployments, with the Saint's Guard and the Legion deploying from her own vessel, along with almost her whole complement of strike craft. The deployments were quick and simple, like an exercise, with no enemy fire yet.

A flash drew her eyes to the viewport, to see that the Nightmare Resurgent had launched its pre-emptive rounds toward the surface, to distribute the rad-scrubbers in preparation for the nuclear strike. It wasn't long in coming. The massive bulk of the Effigy of Shattered Dreams fired, and she could see something in the ventral section shaken free by the recoil, slowly drifting away from the hulk. It wasn't the finest moment for the repair division, but the ship held together under the massive strain. Not every ship could be deployed half-rebuilt and expect to function without any issues.

The second shot, she was ready for, and was the signal for the landing craft to begin their descent. Moving down amongst them was the Succubus-Class Dawn of Oblivion as it continued to disgorge most of the other forces. The only one standing out was the Conqueror-Class Bloodstorm that brought down the ML12-4-2nd Armored. It looked out of place alone, surrounded by so many smaller craft. It was as she was watching the Bloodstorm that she realized the battleship hadn't fired again, and her eyes shot to her displays as she keyed up contact to the commanding officer.

"SLT Sar'Kalla, report."

"Ma'am, fire control system forced a reboot after the shot. It'll be up in another fifteen seconds."

"Will it happen again? Troops will be on the ground before your third shot if it does."

"I can't answer that, Nee-san. Sorry."

"We need that third round, SLT. Can you save bearings while it's up and get a reasonably accurate shot from that?"

"Not sure Ma'am, hold one-"

The line went dead, and then after a moment, she saw the massive gun flash again, and the streak of the shot after it had begun to enter the atmosphere, like a vengeful god streaking down to the surface. The line didn't come back right away, but when Sar'Kalla did, there was massive distortion, indicating they were running on the backup communications gear.

"Ma'am, all is set. Second shot in four. We redistributed the load to other systems."

Silvoya groaned, not wasting time with a response. Obviously communications had been one of those systems, and she had to wonder what else they weren't expecting to use. The third flash came, and the ship continued to hang there, staring at the ground instead of pulling out of position. Curious, she checked her readouts, and found that life support and shielding were the only systems that hadn't suffered some level of failure. At least they had been that careful.

Below, she couldn't even see the impact sites, or any blast, though that was expected. The Helhammer round was designed for subterranean detonation, to collapse any tunnels that weren't fortified against such a strike. It cut off their ability to move and work below the ground, and often eliminated ambushes before they occurred. It seemed like the perfect weapon against them, if she wasn't familiar with the high chance of causing new, long-lasting tectonic activity.

The belly of the Dawn of Oblivion began to show heat stress as it continued to descend toward the atmosphere, and the first indication of enemy resistance appeared then, as enemy ground-to-air batteries opened up. Turning to her operations specialist, a position that didn't even exist except on a Black Saracen-Class, she gestured to the Oblivion.

"Is she close enough? Can we boost her shields so that she stays on station longer?"

The man nodded, quiet as always. He was never much of a talker, though she'd heard he wouldn't shut up when he had a little drink in him. Still, the readouts indicated her new girl was gearing up to protect yet more of her fellows, and she leaned back, sighing contentedly. It felt good to be a protector, and her job was nearly done, anyway. It was down to the strike teams now.

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Northern Deployment

The Rocs that pulled out from the Black-Shrouded Mother enjoyed a relatively smooth journey through the void for some time, rumbling contentedly as they began their descent to the surface. The big, heavily armored dropships gave little indication of even when they hit the atmosphere, simply becoming louder inside as the teams inside geared up for combat, dropping through the outer layers of the atmosphere. All around, other dropships of all types did the same, from the massive Conqueror that descended nearby, to the strange foreign ships that had joined them. They seemed like a swarm, descending over the lone city like a plague of locusts, breaking apart in all directions.

A missiles slammed into the shielding on the conqueror a moment later, but Bloodstorm didn't even seem to feel the hit from the small interceptor that raced up to meet them. It was one of few, but as they watched on the screens, a massive wall of bomblets and flak appeared between them and the aircraft, leaving it nowhere to go. With only a few targets, the Succubus-Class was targeting specific craft, annihilating them before they even had a chance.

Another, larger, missile began to rise from the surface, starting an alarm inside the Roc, but almost immediately it silenced as heavy fire from the warships that overshadowed them destroyed the launch site before it had entered its approach stage. Flaming streaks from the Huerdaen railguns appeared all around the dropships, but little to no return fire came from the surface. In moments, the display in the command Roc appeared, displaying their sector of the city, as well as the two landing sites of the nearest allied forces.

They were touching down in a very open sector of the city, little more than residential housing, with the primary grouping of troops landing in a wooded park approximately six acres in size. There was small housing, and only a few buildings, but the population of the area was low. Still, it appeared that the Huerdaen were correct. In several areas, defensive positions had been set up along their route, creating a loose network of bunkers and pillboxes. They seemed to have little to no anti-tank weapons to speak of, and while there were large numbers of people streaming to those few positions, most of them were already over-staffed.

The main approach path ran down a single road, four lanes wide, with a series of single-story shops on either side. An intersection halfway down the road served as a fortified strongpoint, where a number of civilian vehicles had been forcibly rammed into each other to create an ad hoc fortress of metal which was then covered in scrap and sandbags to create a fortress. Residents from the area had taken up positions in the heap, using anything for cover that they could find, even knowing much of it would make little to no difference when the attack came.

Several other similar fortifications were nearby, blocking main paths toward their objective, which was only a few kilometers from the drop zone. The majority of the approach was fairly open, with most of the vegetation knocked down or damaged after the Helhammer impacts, but still some hills. It provided little cover, and would no doubt force a fast-moving battle to avoid being overwhelmed by enemy numbers.

To the east they could see the open field where the Bloodstorm was already setting down, with tanks rolling out into the open ground where a solar array had once stood, powering much of the city. The light construction allowed them to be easily brushed aside and crushed under the treads of the tanks and other armored vehicles. A handful of civilians huddled into a nearby control center for the array and its associated substation, but what little protection they had was nothing against the tanks from the Goliaths that disembarked. The substation, and power to this whole section of the city, were annihilated in moments.

On their western flank the Rhustarim were deploying among their drones, coming to ground in a far more commercial area, though that covered disappeared quickly as their path led them away around the western edge of the metropolis toward an objective isolated from the citizenry by a small militarized facility.

From above, they could pick out that people were taking up positions in homes and any other building available, trying to obtain cover from fire, but not a single person was heading away from the combat zone. It was as if they knew no fear, or did not understand the danger. Indeed, as the heavy dropships passed through the cloud cover, some even began firing small arms at them, rounds that were harmlessly deflected by shielding.

Not all enemy fire was harmless, however, as a single missile streaked up, passing through the defensive fire from the dropships to slam into one of the thrust pods on Sei's Roc, causing it to burst into flame. Fire engulfed the pod, causing a notification alarm that the pilot calmly silenced, glancing out at the pod itself. With it still attached to the wing, he gave it a quick burst of power, testing how well it was hold, and just grinned as the flames roared louder, but the pod produced the thrust he needed, heedless of the damage. He flashed a quick thumbs-up back to the well-armed cargo as their descent continued unabated.

The autocannons began to shake the ship as it descended, blasting great holes out of the ceilings and walls of unfortified structures. High explosives devastated the landscape, creating craters in the dirt and pavement all around the area. Bodies were soon strewn around the landing zone, many clutching items that could only loosely be considered weapons. Nearby, one of the heavily laden Blackbird gunships began to over, releasing a stream of rockets at one of the make-shift fortifications, completely annihilating whole sections of it and spraying pieces of metal, stone, and plastics over a large area as it calmly continued on its course, barely having touched its ammo reserves. As it continued past, those that were still in fighting condition began to try to find their way back to the twisted ruin of the fortification, firing wildly as the bottom of the blackbird as it continued on.

One child, not yet having reached maturity, was desperately clutching an air rifle that would hardly be a danger to an unarmored opponent, and yet he had been firing it valiantly at the armored belly of the descending dropships. As the heavy dropships came near the ground and the doors began to lower, most of the hostile presence was gone, leaving Sei with a clear landing zone to deploy as she wished.

The main road lay before her, with partially intact buildings on either side, most of them still holding some number of enemies with various weapons, but a large amount of open ground. Nearby, a set of homes sat back-to-back creating a much more closely-packed path that could be traversed, though they would need to go over or through a large number of fences and other light barriers between houses that were still mostly intact. A final approach was available, as a large section of a nearby freeway was still standing, lifted above the ground and exposed from the air, but with little in the way of cover for an ambush. It did, however, go some distance out of the way toward the east and the ML12-4-2nd.

As the unit set foot on the planet's surface, they could see other groups of dropships doing the same around the city, with fire from below minimal at best, and heavy fire raining down toward the city center. Above, a few rare interceptors were scrambling through heavy fire from the cruiser that still dominated the sky, blasting holes in the clouds and chasing the small craft overhead. There had been few to begin with, but more detonated or came crashing to the surface with every moment, unable to even attempt an attack on the landing forces.

With the landing zone secure, it came time to begin moving toward their objective.

Rhustarim Hegemony
Northwestern Deployment

The Huerdaen wasted no time in hoisting up the packaged drones into cranes and latching the heavier units to the bottoms of craft to be deployed outside the ship. There was a section of the large bay on the Black-Shrouded Mother that had been allocated just for them, either by cultural bias or out of strict orders, and it was clear that the crew were keeping their distance. The rest of the bay was packed with flight crew and support staff hurrying about their tasks, but only the few flight crews who serviced vessels deploying the drones remained near the Rhustarim.

It gave an eerie separation to the bay, like they bore some manner of plague, and nobody went near Yaradir. A wide berth was provided for the known AI, even the Huerdaen who were using the heavily armed and armored Watchmen walkers to move the packaged Phoenicars drones into position. The call to deploy did not come quickly enough for them, but at the sounds of the heavy drums that pounded out the message, the crew were all too happy to jettison the drones out of the bay, with minimal equipment to allow them to reach the intended target area. The Rocs, tasked with carrying the heavily armed and armored Catigons, showed no sign of the strain at carrying such a machine, lifting them easily and releasing them out away from the ship before returning, keeping out of the way of the self-propelled Cormorant air drones.

Only when all of this was done and the crew were packing up to leave did they realize that Yaradir and the handful of immortals remained aboard, drawing surprised glances from the crew. After a time, one of the Huerdaen naval crewmen plodded over, piloting a watchman walker, and directing his query to Laya.

"Ma'am, is there a problem? Most of our forces are deploying, it's not safe to land too close to brood-held locations. They have ample traps to make that sort of landing too dangerous to complete..."

He left it at that, trying to determine why the drone forces would deploy ahead of what he considered standard fighting units, or at best officers in charge of the drones.

Below, as the drones fell and steered their clusters to the correct deployment zone, they were able to gather a large amount of data about the area. Their landing zone was a short few kilometers from the objective, but the objective itself had clearly been a military installation. It was at the center of a compound, with almost a half-kilometer of flat, open ground between the installation and an external boundary fence. A small cluster of buildings existed on the northern side of the installation but they, too, stayed some distance from the fence.

There was no obvious indication of heavy defense emplacements, as the installation was at the edge of the city, but several anti-aircraft artillery systems had been set up, now destroyed by rounds from the cruiser above. Despite this, it was clear that the thralls inside the perimeter were better prepared than most of what the other strike teams were facing. They had access to mobile autocannons, including a few mounted on the backs of refit trucks. While not true armored vehicles, they were much more mobile and deadly than the small arms that were facing the other teams. Despite this, they remained inside the fenced perimeter, moving along the streets among the compound buildings, and circling the silo entrance.

The Cormorants were quick to take advantage of the lack of enemy AAA, and in their approach to the landing zone they made a quick pass over the objective, mapping out the terrain and identifying that in at least the northwest sector, a minefield had been constructed. Their pass also allowed them to destroy one of the six armored trucks, but it revealed that the thralls there did have access to short-ranged, shoulder mounted missile systems, which narrowly missed a direct hit on one of the drones during the pass.

Their landing zone itself was several streets away, in the middle of a large railyard that serviced the more industrialized sections of the city by way of a large, raised railway that led from the automated factories at the city fringe to the starport near the center. This railway didn't pass too near their objective, but was heavily reinforced and may support the weight of the heavy Castigons, if they should wish it. The immediate area was empty upon approach, but as the drones deployed, a large number of uniformed humanoid thralls surged out from the support buildings. It was apparent they had expected the area to be used for a deployment, but as the Rhustarim drones separated and deployed across the area, it became clear how poorly they had prepared for it.

The uniformed thralls approached en-masse, and were easily defeated by the waves of fire from the drones. They made no attempts for cover, and most charged forward using heavy objects and other equipment. One group tried to bring one of the railway repair machines up to speed to ram a Phoenicar, but the drone easily scurried out of the way, raking the rail-bound vehicle with fire as it passed. In all, almost three hundred thralls were put to death before they ceased streaming from the nearby buildings and the area fell silent again. While several had been able to climb atop one of the Castigons, none had any weaponry capable of damaging the vehicular drone, and the allied fire that cleared them off merely left the top smeared with blood.

Still, the landing was not completely secure, as the whistling of mortar shells began, easily identified as coming from within the compound, not far away. Initial impacts weren't particularly accurate, but it seemed that the defenders controlled a large number of mortars, as the bombardment continued unabated, keeping the landing zone from ever being truly secure. Forced to move, the Rhustarim could approach directly toward the gate in the fence, which lay at the edge of the repair yard, or try to circle around to the north into a more residential area, to take advantage of the cover of the buildings inside the compound later.

Alternatively, they could swing south into the heavily congested buildings on the southern edge of the compound and near the Directorate forces, where the mortars would be of little use in the tight streets, but would they would have no cover coming out of those buildings as they approached the silo from the south. In either case, the railway could be used to fire down on compound with Castigons, using either direct fire or artillery modes, using the elevation to their advantage.

Tezekian Directorate
Western Deployment

Everything about the Tezekian craft was foreign on the Huerdaen ship. The armored bulk of the Rocs were in stark contrast to the predatory and sweeping forms of the avian craft. Despite this, they were far more accepted than the Rhustarim devices. Flight crews took a few moments here and there to do cursory examinations of the alien technology, showing their curiosity for how other nations solved the same problems. Their interceptors drew more than a little attention, as they were a tool not used by the Huerdaen, but the chance for learning from each other passed all too quickly.

Entry into the system was almost imperceptible, as the ships's armored bay doors simply started to open, revealing a close-orbit view of a planet as the ship began to descent slowly toward the surface. All across the bay, landing craft, gunships, and the Directorate interceptors lifted off, launching in tight groups out the still-opening doors into the deadly zone beyond. But what would normally have been a highly-congested area of enemy fire turned out little more than a textbook deployment. Enemy interceptors were just starting to launch, and the flashes of the cruiser's defenses meant that it was some time before the enemy even began to open fire on the descending landers.

The Directorate interceptors had to go so far as to seek out their foes, driving them either into the guns of the cruiser or strafing them as they fought to gain altitude. It was more than easy, it was almost an unthinking chore. Enemy craft would struggle to gain altitude and small groups of the interceptors would swoop in, entirely nullifying any air presence they may have intended to have. Even ground fire was minimal, limited to small arms fire for the time being.

It wasn't until the final approach that fire began to focus on the sweeping forms Directorate landing craft, as small arms were deflected by the well-prepared defenses. Just as was described, the entire area was in close quarters, with tight buildings almost on top of one another, with some alleys too small to run through in full gear. Unlike the Saint's Guard, the Directorate forces found themselves without immediate contest upon landing. A few thralls began to gather down the long streets, but hills and abandoned vehicles broke up line of sight to isolate the different landing zones, leaving the avians to move freely through the area.

In the distance, the large stadium loomed over the rest of the small buildings, with only a few buildings closer to the center of the city that were more than a two stories. All around them, thralls began a few odd shots from concealed positions, but no organized fire revealed itself. It seemed that the locals were having more trouble than the Directorate in moving through the area, because few if any of the shops appeared to be open, most were just left in a state of disuse, as if everyone had simply walked out one day.

The lack of resistance left them with the option of heading straight for the objective, or taking their time to examine the area. A second path was available if they wished to move to a more open route away from the closely packed buildings. However, this path took them rather close to the Rhustarim objective and alongside the open ground that surrounded that objective. No other large roads existed in this part of the city. Most of the area was small shops and offices that bore a rather run-down appearance, clearly one of the less profitable parts of town, with a large number of buildings already halfway collapsed from the prior strikes. The winding, thin roads made it difficult to move large groups effectively, requiring they drop their forces along three of the different small roads running generally toward the objective.

The avian forces found themselves almost completely uncontested, with their craft overhead lacking targets that were worthy of missiles, and generally limited to seeking out targets to strafe on the ground. Only when they strayed toward the city center, or too far toward the Rhustarim objective, did any actual counter-fire appear, and even then it was significantly limited by the capabilities of those manning it, mostly consisting of old manually aimed autocannons or shoulder-mounted missile weapons closer to the silo. Even these seemed to be handled in a clumsy manner, making avoiding them easy for the fast-moving craft.

55th Drop Division, Legion of Vengeance
Standby Positioning

The 55th had the simplest, and quietest, of jobs to start. Where others began to descend toward the crumbling, burning city through the ill-fated interceptor cover from the ground forces and their meager attempts to slow or stop the landings, the flaming skulls that had earned such renown in the CAS campaign were left waiting for orders from Lt. Bow. All around them, the landings were proceeding even better than expected. Thralls surged toward the craft from all sides and died in droves. It was a mere slaughter, despite the Huerdaen warnings.

It looked like there would be nothing for the skulls to do, and everything continued to advance according to plan until a single, worrying call went out across communications from Colonel Chitsuyu, overriding most protocol.

"Olosia 22-2-3rd, part of your force has missed your landing zone, confirm?"

The response was quick, and arrogant. "The landing is not contested. We're advancing on the objective with air-mobile units. No sign of civvies here, they must have all pulled out."

The colonel cursed audibly over the comms, but was cut off before he could order the unit back.

"Captain Hitsugu here, we've engaged the target building. Confirmed, it appears to be a fortified hospital to withstand the quakes from the Helhammers. We're deploying troops to the roof."

What transpired next was hard to follow, as the comm traffic consisted more of jumbled half-completed messages and words than proper communication, though thankfully most of the communication from the Oa22-2-3rd was cut off by a command from Colonel Chitsuyu before it hampered other communication. From their position, the 55th could observe the mayhem from a safe distance.

A talon below suddenly jerked to the side, as if it had been merely punched where it passed near the hospital, but almost immediately was followed by a burst of light as the shields overloaded. Suddenly unprotected, the talon gunship immediately fell prey to whatever had chosen to target it, as the antimatter warheads in the rockets it carried detonated, causing a bright flash of white-blue that was visible just for a moment even from their altitude. The blast caused several other craft to change their approach or force a landing, and most of the troop-carrying Rocs simply smashed their bellies against the hospital roof, choosing to disgorge their forces amongst the equally disoriented defenders. The other gunships pulled away, trying to identify the danger, leaving the infantry exposed for a moment.

Before the Rocs could even start to pull away from the building, a shockwave shook that sector of the city, striking so hard outward from the center of the hospital that it revealed a heavy, military grade shield that protected the lower fortified third of the hospital. Anything above the shimmering shield line took the full brunt of the energy burst, as metal shattered into flying shards and bricks became shrapnel. The dropships found themselves woefully underprotected against the Ikittitl ordinance, and their shields, too, burst before the assault was over. Where the shields held, the craft sustained minimal damage, but invariably the barrier had fallen, and that point was painfully clear where the edge of the shockwave shredded the craft from that point onward with most of the craft stripped away like it was nothing more than wet parchment run through a blender.

The shower of shrapnel, metal, and stone exploded in the center of the city, and all allied signals suddenly disappeared. With the limited protection the Rocs had received, it was doubtful the armor of the soldiers who had landed was even still recognizable from the rest of the rubble. Parts of the building and landing craft were thrown up into the atmosphere, shimmering like some morbid, mocking snowfall that reached toward the sun like so many hopeful souls. Slowly, it began to fall back to the ground, impacting and leaving craters amongst the city. Three other nearby buildings that had suffered damage from the Helhammer strikes began to collapse, one of which was nearly thirty stories tall, falling over away from the hospital and disappearing into the rising dust. A mass of smoke and dirt filled the air, quickly concealing everything on the ground from above, and leaving little more than ship's sensors to watch the combat from.

A grim voice came from somewhere in the Huerdaen forces broke the silence with words laden with hate and disgust. "Be advised, the enemy has access to energy burst ordinance."

The disembarked survivors, now several kilometers from the target location and merely a single platoon with no immediate support, found themselves outnumbered by increasing numbers. The group immediately began to withdraw, working their way into a defensive position, but displays were clear that the lone platoon was outnumbered easily a hundred to one, and without the Rocs and the ammo supplies they carried, ammunition could become a concern. Comms were agonizingly quiet, until finally a voice came across, breathing heavily and clearly young, with the man probably freshly promoted to his position of JLT, his voice with a clear accent from his life on the Pankrees homeworld.

"This is Oda Goshyu, we have taken up a position in what looks like an old pre-fab from the start of the colony, some manner of old fire station. We are abandoning our strike target. Requesting relief unit."

The man's words were quiet, as if the man was having trouble admitting that most of his fellows had just died, but it appeared like they were able to clear the building and set up defenses, preparing for the oncoming retribution, as they knocked holes in the walls where visibility was poor, peering through the dust and smoke that filled the air across the entire eastern half of the city, slowly drifting across their position with a gentle breeze that somehow seemd untouched by the conflict.

Across the rest of the combat zone, units continued to advance, with the armored push in the northeast making the best progress, carefully moving forward and alternating approach roads as they worked their way through in an attempt to clear large concentrations of the enemy. To the northwest, the Cheztop 8-2-1st Heavy Infantry were moving much more slowly, using their Watchmen walkers to demolish buildings and clear the area before moving out.

OoC: Okay, a whole lot of info here. Let me know if you have any questions. I have also made note of the current status of all of our support elements. As dictated in the initial post, these are available for use. Bomber strikes are shared by all of you, but many of you have to go down underground, so they may not help later on. Keep in mind, if you don't use it, someone else may. Some people (Rhustarim, Xiscapia) have only half their journey above ground, and may be lacking in support for later sections. Use it, and keep in mind that it's all shared. Depending on how it plays out, I may award additional support or take it away if it's used poorly. Most of all, ask me if you have questions, murder LOTS of thralls (they're there for flavor, not a real threat) and have fun!

Saint's Guard - Northern Deployment, Under Minor Pressure
Rhustarim - Northwest Deployment, Securing Landing Zone
Directorate - Western Deployment, Landing Zone Secure
Oa 22-2-3rdL - Eastern Deployment, Isolated and Holding
ML 12-4-2ndA - Northeast Deployment, Advancing and Purging
ML 29-4-4thM - Southern Deployment, Preparing for Purge Action
Cz 8-2-1stH - Northwest Deployment, Securing Landing Zone
HG 1-1-3rdM - Eastern Deployment, Preparing to Out
HG 1-1-5thH - Southern Deployment, Unlimbering Artillery
LoV 55th - Not Deployed, On Hot Standby

Artillery Stance: Setting Up
Victor Target Used: None
Gunships On Standby

Bomber Strikes: 5 Available:
Heavy Bomber Saturation Strike: Available
The Huerdaen Star Empire is an FT Nation.

Xiscapia wrote:It amused her for a time to wonder if the two fleets could not see each other, so she could imagine them blindly stabbing in the dark, like a game of tag, if tag was played with rocket launchers in pitch blackness.

Rezo wrote:If your battleship turrets have a smaller calibre than your penis is long, you're doing it wrong.

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Posts: 957
Founded: Apr 29, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Telros » Mon Oct 16, 2017 7:41 pm

Both Tezekians keenly listened as the Huerdean began to address both their and the Rhustarim's concerns. When the Colonel mentioned how heavy of a raid this was going to be and the fact the civilian populace was a target, Brass glanced at Silver, but the other remained steadfast listening. He had already reminded him of his choice and what it meant, he wasn't going into it again. This was expected after all, from the many reports they had on the Huerdaen, they saw war and conflict as it was, brutal and messy. The interesting part was that apparently some insectoid race, this...Ikitittl, were behind this with the power to influence or control minds, which explained the civilian issue and why they advised using NBC gear in case it affected any of the soldiers. It got even more interesting when they mentioned the signs of possibility of a queen being involved, and how hard they emphasized that it not be engaged. Silver didn't really care, he was here on a mission, not to satisfy curiosity but he would have to have the Director leak some of this to Intelligence, see if they could find anything. This could be a possible threat to the Directorate if even one got into their worlds.

When they moved onto the details of the worker and soldier types, Brass immediately began transcribing the important details into his holopad. They were recording the whole session as it was, so they could run through it all until it was embedded into their heads, so they could act without needing to think. Silver thought over the details; workers would present a problem in terms of slowing them down or if they weren't careful; their ability to hang from almost any angle made flanking them a near impossibility. Then there were the soldiers, living weapons platforms from their ability to 'lock' themselves and fire much more powerful weapons. The comment about anti-vehicle weapons did not go unheeded, Brass made a note to update their planned combat equipment set up. Then Silver made his concerns about the situation and his group's assault area known, and the response was to center the map in on their region. It was an industrial urban mix, many run down buildings; although the signs of the enemy were there, with various levels of fortification from barred windows to barbed wire.

B: Sir, this area-

S: -is full of narrow corridors that are going to force even our small group to divide, yes. We were warned about ambushes, and our section is going to be heavy with them.

B: And those factories are enemy hard points, and booby trapped to be able to take out entire platoons.

S: We can't retreat that way when, they have sight ranges far outside of the outer ring of buildings, we'd get cut apart.

He pointed at the map as Silvoya began to explain their options.

S: We have this alley, provided we have enough support to keep a way open for us. Barring that, as he said, we can fortify and hold out, this region makes that especially effective.

B: I suppose, I'd prefer mobility, though. We can endure more than any of the Directorate's units but we are unused to siege scenarios and tactics. The Rift War was a very long time ago.

S: You can say that about military operations in general for our military, Brass. Still, our options appear to be quite limited.

Almost as if on cue, Silvoya stepped in, offering support craft should they need emergency evacuation using the howler from the armory. Silver leaned back and nodded at that mention.

“Understood, this is appreciated, Colonel and will only be used should we have no other option.”

With that, the meeting was adjourned and they were to prepared their forces. Silver and Brass exited their seats quickly, the latter scrambling for the data and holopads before rushing to match his senior's pace. It would be a relatively short affair: brief the troops, conduct tactical planning to determine the best loadout for the mission and plan for evacuation or fortification locations should the worst happen. When the Huerdaen called, they would already be waiting in their dropships for the green light.


Tezekian Sector, Western Deployment

The trip to the planet was fairly uneventful, even with some of the company's concern about the state of the fleet. The talk was quiet, kept in murmurs and off the neural net; Silver ignored it, as it was just pre-battle stress and joking. It was something they all knew; half of the fleet's ships were moving corpses, wrecks wrapped with bandages of steel and blowtorches. Still, in a short period of time, they heard Silvoya's voice echoing across the communication channels, citing they were going in ahead of schedule.

If one thing can be said of the Huerdaen war machine, it is that it can be pushed far beyond what most consider to be sane limits.

Through their interface with the allied battle net, they saw when the Helhammer rounds were fired, and the subsequent degradation of the battleship. Large plumes of heat, smoke, and ash could be seen even from orbit, untold miles of damage from the nuclear explosions underground, with only a modicum of that damage detectable on the surface. With it came the alarm, and Ghost Company was ready. Brass turned around as Silver put on his helmet:

“Alright, we all know what that means. The Huerdaen have given us the task of clearing out an armory in what appears to be a converted sports stadium. Intelligence suggests resistance will be heavy, a possible mix of indoctrinated auxiliaries and Ikitittl drones and soldiers. Most of the expected structure is to be underground, and while the orbital bombardment is to have done some damage to the area, we expect the area will still remain mostly intact. We are to go in, annihilate as many weapon caches as we can and confiscate any enemy intelligence we find. To this end, we have our two platoons here, two drone platoons, and one Battleframe platoon, two squadrons of interceptors and one battery of artillery.

Lieutenant Autumn, you are to take your Battleframes and form a defensive perimeter around our guns. You will serve as our fallback point and make sure out artillery and HKDS systems are kept safe and ready for our usage. Any and all fire orders are to come from myself or the Lieutenant Colonel unless we specify otherwise. You are also to monitor the situation of the allied zones and inform of us any major updates. The usage of our support elements for their operations will be determined on mission. Should more supplies be necessary, we have authorized three supply orbital drops through the Huerdaen naval forces, deployed to an area of your marking.

As discussed, we will be using our aerial drones and battery to provide cover as needed, moving through the abandoned buildings for cover and clearing out any hidden snipers or ambushes to keep our exit vector opened and then proceed inside the target. Helmets are to remain on and any breaches of your NBC suit are to be reported and handled by squad leaders. Are there any questions?”

There weren't, everyone knew their job in the operation but Silver had found it to be a good focusing point for himself and the company to do a recap, if time allowed. Further, Brass needed to develop more into his role as second and serve as the go-between for the company and himself. He had a long way to go, but this briefing was already showing his improvements, not one stutter. When no one spoke up, the Captain turned around.

“Your company is ready, Lieutenant Colonel.”

As if on cue, the alarm filled the air with shrieking wails. “Well then, let's show these bugs that technology far outstripped the power of the natural world long ago.”

As the two dropships launched, they were shadowed by the two squadrons of interceptors the Directorate had been allowed to deploy with the Huerdaen naval assets. It was a sight you would see in a movie, ships in sharp contrast to the boxy and bulky frames about them having curved hulls and smooth designs, with lines of visible energy running through them. These were a field test of the AVATAR program, the Tezekians attempt to bridge the need for greater processing power and versatility artificial intelligence provided and their cultural abhorrence of the technology. Adding to the extensive set of implants being implemented throughout the military and civilian life, an implant would link a Tezekian mind with the system they would be using, allowing for unforeseen areas of control, sophistication, and security. These were being used to see about reducing the amount of manpower lost in starfighter combat areas, and it was Lieutenant Claws of Magenta's job to ensure the landing went as smoothly as possibly. To assist a number of 'dummy' drop pods were deployed alongside, to draw away enemy fire, and if they survive, serve as sensor suites to extend the company's digital space control on the ground.

To Magenta's chagrin, it would appear the Huerdaen assault was much more effective than the enemy had anticipated. Only a few squadrons were just starting to be assembled, and their home cruisers guns were already laying most of that to waste, adding their wreckage to a growing amount in orbit. What ones managed to make it up were quickly set upon by Magenta, determined to get some testing of the system done. Lithe forms swept in on their foes, the ablative armor deploying over the fighters as they went in, twin-linked gauss cannons sweeping them away. They chased them all over the aerial and orbital space, driving some to their fate upon the cruiser. A few test runs on the surface, taking out a few units just launching, showed some minor potshots but nothing major.

”Ghost Company, this is Phoenix. Reporting enemy air presence suppressed, ground to air assets minimal or absent. You are clear for landing.”

”Understood, Phoenix. Ghost Company inbound in five.”

Thanks to the surprised/lackluster enemy response, all five drop pods landed in a circle around the LZ, and the entire company and its support units began their landing with minimal counter fire. The landers deployed their front gauss guns, and lit up any spot enemy fire came from, with missiles deployed for any building hardpoint or anything that resisted the initial gauss barrage. Under this cover, Ghost Company quickly deployed, setting their operational headquarters and artillery guns, a mobile unit with a retractable cannon. The Battleframe platoon, led by Lieutenant Claws of Argent, immediately began setting about establishing their defensive diamond, setting up deployable energy fields for cover, anti-vehicle restrictors, mines, and gun nests. Silver looked around and nodded, enjoying the speed and efficiency of his group. He had put them through hell training after they had gotten their cybernetics and they were finally starting to beat their old deployment records.

“We're all set down here. We'll call you if we need anything else.”

”Read you loud and clear, Lieutenant Colonel. Good luck down there, we'll be on station at regular intervals for any support or pickup.” The dropships roared off, their VTOL engines engaging to give them the lift they needed. Brass popped up, Silver already accepting the holopad he knew would be given as the other began to use binoculars to survey the terrain. Occasional loud sizzling/cracking noises could be heard, as the company used counter sniper fire to weed out the remaining harassing pockets of the enemy.

“The buildings around us have experienced some damage from the orbital bombardment, but most stand intact. They appear to have been abandoned for some time, 1st and 2nd Platoons are driving back those who are being too curious or aggressive.”

“Hrm. We don't know if this armor has any support like we do, be it mortars or actual batteries. The buildings would cover us, but slow us. There is an alternate path here, but it takes us close to the Rhustarim operational area.”

Brass glanced at the tactical map. “True, we seem to be reaching a lockdown on our LZ soon, so we have either option. Phoenix is reporting no more attempts at AA or interceptor launches save for when they go near the Rhustarim's objective or the center of the city. Even then, it's just manually fired RPG's or old autocannons.”

“Inform him to remain on station and keep patrolling the area, along with our dropships. If we can use them to aid another operation if it becomes needed, it'll be good to keep them around. Now, while it is possible the enemy is not contesting to keep the armory safe, I don't feel like giving them time to regroup if its a simple matter of surprise. With that in mind,-”

Before he could continue a loud explosion came from the center of the city, with the distinctive warble in the air that accompanied anti-matter munitions. Both avians whipped their heads around, Brass bringing his binoculars to bear, to see the fading white-blue halo, with falling debris or damaged Roc's along with the remaining struggling to reform. Shortly after a burst of energy that coalesced into a shield came out of what Brass determined was the hospital and shortly afterward, the energy burst out to annihilate the remaining Huerdaen dropships. The shockwave of both events laid to waste several buildings around and on the tactical map in Silver's Hand, ninety percent of the allied forces in that group had winked out.

“Well...shit. What the hell was that?”

Brass's question would be answered with a short but curt reply from somewhere in the Huerdaen net:

“Be advised, the enemy has access to energy burst ordinance.”

Silver keyed up the neural net immediately after. AOA: Alpha One, this is Alpha One Actual, do you copy?

AO: We copy, Alpha One Actual.

AOA: Get further information from the Huerdaen Battle Command on what these energy burst weapons are, these is now priority one. We need to know what we're dealing with. Any reading on survivors in that zone?

AO: We're receiving telemetry that perhaps a single platoon managed to hunker down in one of the surviving buildings. We are showing increased enemy movement in the region, and it seems to be gathering strength to come to their location.

AOA: Very well. Deploy more sensor drones, I want as best an image of the city as we can, priority on our area first. Task our aerial elements to keep an eye on that platoon, coordinate with them regarding their status. Forward our offer of one of our aerial drone support squadrons to provide fire support should they start getting pressed. Keep me appraised of the situation and be ready for further updates, Alpha One Actual Out.

He turned to Brass, his head feathers have flattened to give his face one of grim professionalism. “Brass, inform the company we are moving as soon as HQ gets us better telemetry. Deploy pickets and keep your eyes peeled. This could be the beginning of a counter assault.”

Brass saluted, his feathers twitching with disbelief. “I don't know. The Huerdaen main assault is moving forward with resistance melting away, the Hegemonic forces are under fire but appear to be solidifying their hold as well.”

“You forget, Captain. The Colonel was quite clear; they knew we were coming, or that the Huerdaen were at least. As we saw in the center of the city, they have traps and defenses we don't know about yet. Prepare the platoons and keep watch on the pickets and their reports. Once we have a look at our approach, we'll begin.”

“Understood, sir.”

The company shifted, initially in groupings preparing to move out with speed, moved into two central groups of cybernetic troops, with a platoon of drones on each flank. Picket squads were sent out to scout the initial area around the LZ, keeping guard and patrolling, watching for signs of enemy movement and build up, and continuing the suppression and elimination of rogue elements. Drones were launched into the air, using the initial gauss burst to get them airborne and deploying thrusters to move high enough to avoid enemy fire and began establishing a net. They coordinated with the drop pod suites, working to bring a ever more accurate and real time image of their zone and the city as a whole, other units, communications and updates being brought in. It wouldn't be long before Silver had his map and could begin operations.

Directorate ORBAT:
1st Platoon: Preparing to Move, Unharmed, Supplies Full
2nd Platoon: Preparing to Move, Unharmed, Supplies Full
3rd Platoon: Preparing to Move, Unharmed, Supplies Full
4th Platoon: Preparing to Move, Unharmed, Supplies Full
5th Platoon; Dug In, Unharmed, Supplies Full

Aerial Assets:
Sensor Drones: Deployed and Compiling Data, Unharmed, Sensor Map at 65%
Intercept Squadron One: Patrolling, Unharmed, Supplies at 90%
Intercept Squadron Two: Patrolling, Unharmed, Supplies at 90%
Drone Support Squadrons: Undeployed, Waiting For Orders
Dropships: On Station, Waiting for Orders, Unharmed

Artillery Battery: Deployed, Waiting For Orders, Supplies Full, Unharmed
Supply Drops Available: 3
Victor Target Used: None

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The Rhustarim Hegemony
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Rhustarim Hegemony » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:09 pm

Deployment Site
Initial assessment: minimal resistance. Exposed. Relocation: preferred.

The War Cell moved in unison, driven by a single will as wheeled towards the south. The Cormorants, recalled after discovering the enemy's capacity for anti-air fire, pulled in lower to hover a few metres above the ground based drones. A shimmering haze, like vapour, emanated from the fliers as they turned their fields to point defence - the better to protect the Cell while it moved into a more advantageous position. Phoenicars separated into small clusters, a number of which moved ahead of the main convoy to begin scouring the residential block the Cell had unanimously decided to move towards. The Castigons, thrumming with energy as their shields came to full charge, rotated their railguns towards the target facility. The Phoenicars between the vehicles and their target froze, rotated to face their armoured sides to the allied tanks and shield their sensitive sensor suites an instant before a volley of high explosive rounds exploded out of the main weapons.

The weapons whined as they fired, and the shells ignited the air with sparks and flames and arc lightning along their trajectory. There was an uncharacteristic messiness to the firing pattern, designed more to force the enemy to keep to cover than to actually inflict damage. The instant the volley had been set loose, the Phoenicars twisted and resumed their place alongside the tanks, and the Cell kept moving towards the protective cover of the buildings. The advance units reached the edge of the buildings and split into pairs, the phoenicars scuttling into the first buildings on the edge where they switched effortlessly between wall, floor and ceiling as they random-walked. The method was as simple as their objective, clearing each building as thoroughly as could be afforded before moving on to the next. In some cases, where the drones finished their sweep on the roof or top floor of building, they leapt the gap to the next and worked their way back to street level, rather than waste time repeating a single building.

As the Cell drew in towards the cityscape, the Castigons and a group of protective phoenicars began to split from the main convoy. Moving towards the railway, the support vehicles aimed to take up a position to provide direct - and if necessary, indirect - fire support down into the facility. The approach from the edge of the city to the target encampment was dangerously exposed, and while the phoenicars could cross quickly enough to minimise the amount of incoming fire they would take, the conglomerated intelligences chose instead to begin peppering the landscape with fire. A series of high explosive shells were again let loose as the castigons continued to move into place, leaving pock marks and long gashes across the landscape where they impacted. The volleys ceased only as the first rank of vehicles made it to the high ground of the railway line. Support beams thudded into the ground, locking into place with meticulous position as the immense rail cannon of two of the castigons began to rotate back towards the front of the vehicle, preparing to transition into indirect fire while the rest of the vehicles trundled into their overwatch positions.

Aboard the Black-Shrouded Mother
"Ma'am, is there a problem? Most of our forces are deploying, it's not safe to land too close to brood-held locations. They have ample traps to make that sort of landing too dangerous to complete..."

Laya took a moment to siphon out the enormous torrent of data Yaradir and the drones were sending to her, only turning her attention to the Huerdaen once the stream was pushed to the back of her mind.

"No problem. Yaradir is waiting for a clear and safe site before allowing our Immortals to deploy. I cannot guarantee a time frame, but rest assured, at some point you will only have me left aboard - and I will pack myself into a corner out of your way, if that is quite alright."


The sudden scream from Yaradir caused Laya to jump suddenly, the intelligence apparently unaware (or more likely ignoring) the subtleties of organic conversations. She managed to keep the polite smile on her face even so, and continued speaking, "or Yaradir can take me aboard its own vessel form if you are alright with him actually being in-system. I promise I will prevent it from interfering directly with the mission - it won't even need to be in orbit."

She indicated the Immortals standing behind her, silent as they all kept up to date on the deluge of information being provided by Yaradir, moment by moment information down the tiniest scale to a level even Laya could not accomodate. "In the meantime, you probably won't notice we're even here."
Last edited by The Rhustarim Hegemony on Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The Rhustarim Hegemony|State of the Galaxy
The only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.

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Democratic Socialists

Postby Xiscapia » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:56 am

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Northern Deployment

Standing in the back of the Roc, one hand holding onto a strap hanging from the ceiling as the ship shot out from the hangar with the rest of the swarm, Sei Vydam maintained her silence. Apart from a few curt orders she'd hardly said a word, not even to her senior officers or command squad, and even when they were descending into battle she could sense some of her soldiers looking at her. It was still odd to think of them that way, the motley collection of over two dozens peoples and species who had answered her call to volunteer or sign for pay, but as uneasily as she'd fallen into the role of commanding officer she had never regarded them as anything but her men and women. So they cared, maybe even more than she would have liked.
How could she explain the Spinor to any of them? What could she tell them about the threat they were facing, apart from the soul-blackening horror and madness?
And what could she say about her own misgivings?

So she hurtled downwards with no way to stop it, swaying gently with the movement of the ship while her other hand clasped her rifle against her armor. It was the only thing she had ever asked of the Church, never having owned any power armor of her own, and they had returned to her with a set that had taken her breath away when she saw it. The suit was done up in black and navy blue, the colors of the Kitsune Empire, and fit her form to provide beautiful but powerful protection with its interlocking system of hardened plates, shield generators, and subtle scrawls of religious symbols supposedly imbued with blessings and wards to protect her from harm. The interior was more obviously covered in scripture, pressing the word of gods against her naked flesh as if she could become holier by osmosis, but the lining and climate controls kept her comfortable. It even interfaced with her cybernetics.

The Church wasn't the only institution that had helped her, though the Silver Lace had come at a price that she was currently paying. The opportunities that had come with it, the ability to move through Huerdaen territory, the combat training, and being with Vii throughout it all, had interested her far more than the implant had, but it had been a requirement. At first she had enjoyed it despite the pain and discomfort, quickly growing stronger than she'd ever been and performing calculations she would have struggled with before, and she'd even gotten used to the fact that it could display a HUD for her on her own eyes. Yet so many memories had returned with such startling clarity that she hadn't been able to parse them all. She still had them logged, locked away in a different way, waiting for her.

A thud rattled the Roc and jostled her out of her revere, and she looked up to see smoke and fire spewing from one of the engines. She watched intently, armored tail swishing as she tried to judge whether it would hold, and when the pilot poured it on without taking them out of the sky she breathed a sigh of relief. No matter how many drops she made she had never gotten used to not being the one in the cockpit and in control, subject to the whims of the pilot, ground fire, and other aircraft in whether they made it to the ground. Despite that and the ground fire still coming up she felt better once they got into range of the landing zone where the guns opened up and rockets began to fall. Her fate would be more-or-less in her own hands again.

Before she'd even left the dropship her command squad was with her: her platoon sergeant, medic, fire support officer, and personal guard. The first, a grizzled vixen older than the other three combined named Gozei, only gave Sei a nod before she jogged away to whip the rest of the company into shape, leaving her to hop out with the other three as the squads set down around them. Her FSO, himself a Nogitsune tod Masato, kept close with himself and Sei all but in the shadow of her personal guard, the Setulan woman who went only by Hannah, and the even bigger medic that was the atoran Janni on the other side. The Vipran woman had gotten more than a few suspicious looks and taunts but she had laid her life on the line repeatedly for the Guard, almost as much as Hannah had. Even as they moved both were keeping her shielded with their bulk, prepared to catch any stray or lucky shots that might come her way.

Even from between them Sei could see that it wasn't going to be necessary. Bodies were already piling up all around them as unarmored men and women wielding everything from shotguns and pistols to machetes and clubs rushed in only to be cut down. Some of the buildings around the park had partially or completely collapsed in, still smoldering, and most of the hostiles didn't seem to realize that shooting at the gunships was worse than useless or that trying to climb back into their ruined fortifications only gave her troops slow-moving targets to pick off as they struggled over piles of debris. Still, not all of them were so foolish as to run out into the open, and they had better things to do than try to wipe the LZ completely clean. With one check on the progress of the other units in the area she could see, Sei scythed a hand at the on-ramp to the freeway and her comms gave the order.

With Rocs joining the plumes of smoke rising into the air and the sounds of automatic fire reverberating through her along with the occasional cough-thud of grenade launchers she strode forward across the grass. 1st Platoon, a mix of Legion of Vengeance, Nogitsune, and AXIS troops along with a Huerdaen weapons squad, advanced up the ramp first, 2nd Platoon's CAS men and women providing them with covering fire against snipers and the odd thrall who popped up from beneath the freeway. 3rd Platoon, Huerdaen mixed with Assault Jaegers, Xenohuman Raiders, and Mechanized Shock Troopers, held their rear from thralls who rushed across the bodies of their own dead in the park as the gunships made themselves absent. "Watch for snipers," she uttered as the first platoon made it onto the freeway, the soldiers lining up along the edge to help their comrades and pour fire down on the thralls still hounding them. With fluid ease the next two groups hustled up onto the freeway, fire hardly slackening, and once they were assembled the 150-odd troops began their march down to where they would leave the freeway and continue to the objective.

She found Vii somewhere among the Guard, her squad keeping close as she caught up with the man. "What does our drop-off point look like?" she asked him, referring to the point where they would get off the road.
Xis quote of the week: Altaria Almighty: how are you not just a race of sexual predators? Like who needs power armour and gauss rifles when you have leather and whips. –Karaig
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Huerdae » Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:54 pm

I.M.S. Black-Shrouded Mother, Black Saracen-Class Cruiser
Operational Command

Silvoya stood, quietly scowling at the overlay. Everything had been going perfectly, with the cordon created, and all units moving in, when the Oa 22-2-3rdL had to go and get arrogant. Every one of the units she had worried about, namely the foreigners, had managed to stick to the plan, but the new unit from Olosia were the ones to ruin the plan. The Shield was better than that, and she knew it. Even new units had earned quite a reputation out here in the Fringe campaign, what with the Home Galaxy 1-1-3rd that were part of this very operation having single-handedly earned the trust of many of the Setulan colonies near Forgotten Exile. Nearly a hundred people dead, because someone wanted glory. Gritting her teeth, she reminded herself to avoid using units led by untested 'local nobility' in the future. Idiots.

Her mood improved rather quickly as the HG 1-1-5thH reported in slightly ahead of schedule, noting that their guns were in position and ready to provide support. For a moment, she was tempted to call in supporting fire on the Oa 22-2-3rd to keep them from being overrun, but she held off, letting local command make those decisions. Another unit may need those weapons. Instead, she tapped out the sequence to indicate to unit commanders that the Desecrator battery was available, able to fire high explosive or airburst munitions. A single strike of Concussive rounds was available for this operation against particularly tough targets, available to the first team to request it.

Next to report in was the other HG 1-1 unit, the HG 1-1-3rdM. The notorious Fay'Shaila's mechanized unit that fought on Farazen, now under a different commander. Expectedly, they were moving to the support of the Oa 22-2-3rd, making use of their own support to cut through the thrall defenses and shore up the eastern flank, forcing enemy units that may be trying to withdraw from the city to head south, as previously planned. As she watched, the unit linked up on its northern end, then southern end, and the gap in their lines closed.

Moments, later, two of her bomber wings switched from 'standby' to 'preparing attack run' as new orders came in, and she leaned forward, curious who would have already begun using the support. When she pulled up the information, she merely smiled.

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Northern Deployment

Even after they had taken to the freeway, the thralls hounded them until it became abundantly clear that they would make no headway. Here and there, a shot would come from below, trying to hit or injure the Guard, but the elevated position mixed with the careful training of a dozen different militaries in the unit meant that it was effectively harmless. The varied group made good time across the elevated path as Vii spoke to Sei, updating her on their path as they moved along.

A quick three-dimensional image became available to her as he spoke, illustrating the paths. "We have two onramps to exit without jumping over the side, which is an option, though probably not a good one. First is closer, it puts us down at the edge of the residential sector here. Probably more of the same that we just left, not a lot of cover, a fair bit of open ground. A little more condensed because it seems like lower-cost housing, but we'd be right on the flank of the armored push, so support would be right with us."

He barely had to look at her face to see that's something she'd rather not deal with, so he kept going without missing a beat. "The second one is probably ideal for us. It puts us down approximately two blocks from the entry point, and we even go over an overpass that has sight on the target area. If we keep low and careful, we can get a good idea of what we're up against without them being aware it's our target yet. Remember, the Ikittitl use thralls to identify where the enemy is attacking. What we faced wasn't an actual defense, they're trying to identify where to condense their forces without risking actual troops."

He stopped, and rolled back the map a little bit, just shy of half a kilometer from where they would be getting off. "But here's the issue. We've got buildings still standing to either side of the freeway at this point. Either one would be an issue if it's garrisoned, and both probably have at least thralls. We can leverage the armor push to take out the one on their side, and call in bombers for the other. That won't reveal our objective yet, keeping us from being too obvious to the enemy. You could bring in gunships to clear the upper floors, but close support from gunships is risky against Ikittitl. They're well-versed in dealing with our birds, and the closer the environment, the more likely we are to lose them."

Sei's response came quickly, surprising him when she made the call for bombers on both buildings, but he didn't question, quickly slipping back and under cover to make the call to their support. Smaller than many in her unit, even in his Kratos armor, he was easily lost in the groups moving along the freeway through color. Even the golden markings on his armor didn't always give him away. Within moments, she received the simple, clear affirmative from the bomber groups that the strike was confirmed.

The feeling of it was odd. It wasn't a verbal affirmative, or a light, or even a text indicator. Being linked into the Huerdaen combat systems using the Silver Lace meant that the communication came encrypted, which she was able to unencrypt without a thought. It almost was as though the bomber command added a thought to her own, a passing of knowledge that the strike was incoming, and when. For a command level communication, it was ideal, and commonly used, though purposefully limited. To make use of it, it required a suit interface, to add in hardware layer protections to avoid a technical attack against Imperial commanders. That didn't make it any less uncomfortable for many, and some disabled it, forcing their fellows to send confirmations via simpler methods. Vii was one of those.

Ahead on the freeway was a blockade, long ago made, likely as part of a resistance movement against the Ikittitl influence. Bodies littered the ground, as if there had been talks that were interrupted by weapons-fire. Behind them, a wall of cars served as a barricade that was now long undefended. At a signal from her first platoon's weapon team, the group came to a halt. One of the Huerdaen veterans marked with red indicators of a weapon specialist crept forward, checking the barricade as he slipped out of sight.

A few minutes later, he returned, crushing a small device in his hands and signaled for the advance to continue. It was when Sei was passing the device that Vii returned, answering the question in her head.

"It was a low-level popper. Good thinking, keeping some of our specialists out front. Common training for red-heads to be able to disable those, just in case. It probably wouldn't have hurt our shielded troops, but we can never be sure. It also means they're not going to know for sure that we passed this way. Another one for us."

He smiled, though it was only half-felt. The man never had any true mirth on a battlefield, always forced to relive memories of fallen comrades with each step. Still, their advance had been very fortunate, and the man was in better spirits than he normally was.

A warning went up with only a handful of seconds to respond, but the team was still a short distance away, and the bombers had clear indicators of where the team was. The strike came out of the clouds without audible warning, as the rockets had long since been developed to pass the speed of sound. Instead, constant streaks and the bright white-blue of antimatter detonated along the side of one of the buildings, so fast it was almost impossible to see. What had once been an intimidating structure seemed to vaporize in moments, as the rockets slammed into the near side. In an instant, over a hundred rockets blasted the structure as the wing-like craft swooped in.

With a single structure as a target, they came on in a single file line, each craft firing in sequence, on target for little more than half a second before they pulled up and away. Blasts sheared away metal and concrete like it was tissue paper, showering the entire area in debris and leaving a vicious gash in the city where once a building had stood. Fires burned across the ground where the building had been, and pieces continued to rain down even as far as several kilometers distant, prompting a few jokes from their allies in that direction. Nearby, another building collapsed from the sudden blasts, its foundation broken from the prior strikes, and dust began to billow out in all directions as the city shook again, like some sort of waking beast.

The second strike was different. Coming from across the freeway, the bombers followed the same formation, but the entire first volley of rockets slammed into some unknown shield, scattering light all across the area. Voices rang out immediately in her unit for cover, as the fortified building had now been identified. However, the strike craft were hardly finished. With the first craft emptied, they pulled off, reorganizing their attack.

Within seconds, they were inbound again, this time in pairs coming from a wide angle apart. Again, the rockets struck, but the Ikittitl shielding was never designed for taking hits from multiple directions at once, and in moments, the first rocket broke through.

Retribution was terrible, and though the structure had been strengthened against lesser weapons, the massive ordinance that the bombers used was well beyond it. As the building was peeled away by explosion after explosion, reinforcing columns became clearly visible before they, too, toppled, smashing everything nearby in with their weight. Near the top had been some manner of armored citadel, likely a heavy gun position, that was annihilated by a direct hit, to some good-natured taunting from her unit.

The whole process took less than a minute between the two strikes, but the path was now clear, though a stray hit had done damage to the freeway, there were no longer elevated positions to reveal her men. As one, the unit advanced, its spirits soaring. As other units heard of the strike, a message came in from the ML 12-4-2ndA, with a pleased-sounding voice on the other end calling up Sei happily.

"Damn good show, girl. That'll make our job easier. We owe you one."

As the comms quieted again, the force began to approach their objective. They had faced almost no resistance since taking to the freeway, allowing them to move much faster than any of the other units, but now nearly within sight, the group slowed to a crawl, as they worked to avoid detection. Shortly after the unit slowed, her first platoon began to report in.

"We have confirmation on the entry point. Heavily fortified, four visible Soldiers, several dozen workers. It doesn't look like they're expecting us yet. By their formation, they likely have support units in the surrounding buildings, but where we're at we're still above them. Nothing nearby higher than two stories up. Most likely they've got a heavy position on the far side from where the entrance is facing, with smaller positions on either side to create a protective triangle. We can try to identify the strongpoints before making our attack, or begin immediately. There's a good chance there are other defenders below the surface. If we catch them off guard, they're likely to retreat out of sight and fight us in the tunnels."

In the distance, the sounds of gunfire was constant, but the bugs seemed unconcerned in their current state, keeping a careful eye out as they had no nearby contacts reported. Instead, they seemed almost at ease, waiting for their moment.

It was Vii who spoke next, again directly to Sei. "There's a chance there's a den down there, a barracks of sorts. Once we start this, they may start pouring out in droves. Be careful."

The report continued, however, identifying six buildings in the local area.

"Numbering 0 through 5, we've got the most likely strongpoints identified. Let us know how you want to proceed. Ideally, we'll hit all at once so none can support each other, and they'll be individually destroyed, but there's no way to be sure without trying an approach. By group, it's likely that Buildings Zero or One are a flanking point. Two almost certainly is, but it could be Three, off to the side. Still, Three has a limited firing position. It's a little far back toward the projected hardpoint location to be a good flanking point. It's more likely as an option for the Hardpoint, along with Four or Five. All three of them could serve to house concealed heavy weapons, or a covered citadel firing point. Your call which we strike, ma'am."

Buildings Zero and Four appeared to be low-level shops, with barbed wire around the top, and sporting barred windows. Two is likely only by location, it's the only building in the right place to cover that flank, but it's little more than a hut. Difficult to fortify even if they tried. One is some manner of garage, becoming likely because it is near an ideal location and can likely house relatively heavy weapons inside. Three is a little ways out from the others, somewhere distant and between Two and Five, but is a more ideal location for many weapons. It appears to be a paramilitary structure of sorts, possibly a national guard unit or their local parallel. Similarly, Five is a large police station, standing slightly higher than the rest with a raised wall around the roof, which would provide an elevated firing position. A quick map showed her an overhead view of the position, indicating how the targets would create overlapping fields of fire over the proposed entrance.

The entrance itself was little more than a blister on the ground, with a set of stairs leading down. Designed as some manner of subterranean railway, Huerdaen scans had been blocked by some manner of jamming past the the first few feet. The entrance had only been moderately reinforced, with a number of benches and light vehicles moved toward the point to create a loose barricade.

A quick snap drew her attention away from the map, though, as one of the Nogitsune gestured to the buildings nearby. Several had small groups of Workers clinging to the sides, most armed with the small worker-level Ikittitl weapons. They were mostly concealed from ground fire, by signs and other outcroppings on buildings, but it was likely more remained unspotted. The creatures seemed able to conceal themselves easily behind almost anything more than a meter in length, and half a meter in width.

This time, Vii's voice was grim, quite aware that they would be taking casualties in the coming firefight. "What's our move, Blue?"

Rhustarim Hegemony
Northwestern Deployment

The capabilities of the Rhustarim drones allowed them to cut a bloody path straight through the thralls. Most of the buildings in the area had only small pockets of resistance in them, but as the cell moved through the streets, they continued to charge out at them, or open fire from windows that barely provided cover. It was the mortar fire that rained down on them that was the greatest concern. As the thralls continued to throw themselves at the cell, the accuracy continued to increase. Shots which had previously been far wide were beginning to land among the Phoenicars. Many of the impacts were blocked by shielding, or not close enough to do significant damage, but the accuracy of the attacks continued to increase. Soon, the incoming shells were landing amidst the Cell with dangerous precision. The defenses of the Cormorant drones gave some level of protection, but the fire did not relent.

As the shells slammed into the ground, whole sections of the field surrounding the facility began to detonate, as mines went off in sequence. Isolated pockets of explosives blew large chunks of sod into the air, creating a pock-marked landscape filled with mud and lingering clouds of smoke where once had been a pristine field. One detonation in the middle of the field struck something other than dirt, clearing off the concealing vegetation to reveal a well-camouflaged gun position. It was already turning toward the moving Castigons as they began to set up their positions. Revealed with little time to counter, it fired before the cell count return fire.

The shot went high, slamming into a building well past the target, but the shots were soon followed by two other similar positions. Smoke from the gun breaches drifted out of the concealed firing ports on the ground, steel turrets heavily reinforced against enemy attack. The second shot from the positions flew true, but was deflected by the mighty Castigon's shielding, dissipating harmlessly. The last, however, struck a support beam on the railway, causing the entire structure to lurch.

It wasn't enough to bring the section down, however, but it did reveal a vulnerability. Still, the firing of the guns allowed the Cell to glean information about them. They were heavily armored on the sloped sides, but the top was relatively weak, permitting fire from above to destroy them with some consistency. However, the incoming mortar fire on the Phoenicars didn't abate either, as the defending thralls used their outdated equipment to try to keep some distance between them and their advanced foes. They didn't seem to be an immediate threat, but there was no sign that the fire would abate without direct intervention from the Rhustarim forces.

Matters were complicated when the consistent thudding of mortar fire was punctuated by the heavy thunder of another artillery piece. Several seconds passed before a massive round slammed into a building near the Phoenicar grouping, destroying it outright. A second blast took out a similar structure in front of the moving group, trying to force the drones into the open where concentrated fire could take them down.

Tezekian Directorate
Western Deployment

The first report in from the aerial unit supporting the isolated Pankrees platoon indicated that while the Thralls knew they were there and had surrounded them, they were biding their time. They rarely moved out in large groups that would make them vulnerable to enemy air support, but they kept threatening the building. They had only made one breaching attempt so far to wipe out resistance, despite overwhelming numbers. Instead, they were content to wait while the Huerdaen HG 1-1-3rdM plowed toward the beleaguered unit, cutting off the open retreat path that had been opened, and allowing the cordon to close once more.

Shortly after, an official report was forwarded regarding the energy burst ordinance mentioned. It was a burst device, generally with a cooldown of approximately an hour between uses, that could create a massive energy pulse within a two kilometer radius. It cannot be used to project a burst through shielding, however, so the device exists in an otherwise unprotected part of the city. It is also known to be rare, as Ikittitl favor a more surgical strike approach when using highly destructive weapons. All of these indicate to Huerdaen intelligence that the one in charge of crafting this defense is highly abnormal in his methods, or likely has only the single device available. There is a good chance they will try a second strike, so identifying a location of consistent, high power usage is likely to identify the location of the device. A footnote indicates it is the base technology that led to all current 'Concussive' devices used by the Huerdaen.

The picket teams and patrols were quick to begin bringing in reports of several oddities. One of the reasons that thralls were rare in this sector appeared to be that most of the citizens in the area had already died before the strike. Most died around their table, as if they had been poisoned through ingestion. First dozens, then as the net spread out and the drones and pods continued to investigate, the same report was repeated over and over. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the locals had died in endless terrible ways, spewing their guts out over a table, or collapsing and clawing at their throats. In the area, a single other life form was located that wasn't acting similarly to the other thralls. Instead, it was a young male, who merely stood in building he was found in, looking at what was likely his family. He appeared to be a son, with the rest of the family unit dead around him.

What was important was what he was holding. Though he was no longer responsive except to dumbly follow any direction given to him without question or hesitation, he carried a recording device that was unlocked, and full of data that could be reviewed.

As the information net spread out futher, it became clear that this had been an area that the enemy hadn't been able to easily quell. Barricades were constructed in multiple places, and signs of battle were evident. The fight for the city had clearly been desperate, and those who lived in this section had never had a chance to escape. Matching that with Huerdaen records, that indicated a match on normal Ikittitl tactics, allowing the pheromone to take root and turn those who stubbornly resisted. As soon as the group was isolated, their fall had become inevitable.

In addition, the net was able to obtain additional information about the surrounding area. At this level, scans from the drop pods indicated that there was no doubt of a subterranean system under the city that led to both the Rhustarim objective facility, and the Tezekian objective facility. Importantly, however, the Rhustarim facility had suffered significant damage during the Helhammer strikes, possibly opening an additional entrance below the surface. Much of the complex below the Directorate target was collapsed, but one area had clearly been fortified and continued to stand, indicating a key location.

Unfortunately, it also indicated that the sewage systems beneath the current combat zone were linked into the tunnel system, and were shielded from significant scanning. Any number of foes could be concealed beneath their very feet and they would have little to no warning. It did reveal, however, that only a few main passages were large enough to contain thralls, so identifying an enemy force before they breach the surface could allow them to be annihilated without a fight.

Altogether, resistance remained almost non-existent, leaving initiative in the hands of the Directorate.

55th Drop Division, Legion of Vengeance
Standby Positioning

The decision to remain on standby didn't seem to have adversely affected the combat below. With the HG 1-1-3rdM moving swiftly into position, it appeared that relief was not far from coming, and that allowed the Legion to continue to circle lazily, waiting for their opportunity. It was clear that most of the units below were doing particularly well, but the actions of the defenders were not without purpose. Huerdaen files indicated that this style of defense was not unheard of, and generally consisted of the use of thralls to identify and slow an enemy force. Small or specialized units were often targeted first, as the Ikittitl gathered their primary elements to prepare a decisive strike against a single enemy. By using the thralls they're able to identify, contain, and slow enemy movement and draw attention away from the actual strike elements.

The current events indicated that of the strike teams, it is likely that either the Oa 22-2-3rdL was about to be the target of such a strike, or the Rhustarim drone cell. The concentrated fire on the drones indicated that they were likely a priority target for the Ikittitl, possibly with the intention of reverse engineering some of the technology contained there-in, but the use of thralls around the Oa 22-2-3rdL indicated they were holding in position for some other event. However, actions from the north continued to push through the enemy defenses, driving against the Ikittitl hard enough to force the defenders to play their hand, and soon.

In the south, the ML29-4-4thM was dug into its position, and taking advantage of the press being afforded by victories across the city. Several vehicles of various configurations, from low-level flight craft to land-based crawlers, had attempted to break out of the trap to the south, only to be shredded by the positions prepared there. Every such attempt was followed by a recovery effort by the Huerdaen to identify what it was the Ikittitl were attempting to preserve.

The Cz 8-2-1stH had begun their move into the city, leveling structures with patience and complete efficiency. They seemed less interested in clearing the positions than destroying them, refusing to take risks to secure additional intelligence. Their path was lit by smoke and fire, putting the entire sector in danger of burning down as fires raged out of control behind the Huerdaen forces, threatening to bleed over into the neighboring sectors of the Guard and the Rhustarim. Nearby, the two wings of bombers began their approach back to the Huerdaen cruisers that harbored them, preparing to reload for a second run.

Things were becoming almost boring when another call came in, this time from the armored unit operating near the Saint's Guard, notifying allied forces.

"This is the Mah'Lahn 12-4-2nd Armored, we have identified a possible enemy strongpoint. A water purification facility in our sector appears to have been drained and had significant shielding erected, as well as defensive emplacements. Initial defenses are suppressed, but we do not have a strike team to access and investigate. Please advise for strike or burn."

Bringing up the facility in question indicated that the armored group had cleared a set of four gun positions bracketing the facility, as well as destroying the protective shields. Surface defenses were destroyed, but no breach attempt had been made. It was likely that any further resistance had fled into the facility. Scans indicated that much of the reservoir area of the facility had been re-purposed somehow and shielded against scanning by the locals. Huerdaen teams were waiting at the edge of the facility for the call to either plant explosives and move on, or permit entry to a strike team. A platoon of vehicles remained in reserve for the decision to avoid the enemy attempting a breakout.

Saint's Guard - Northern Deployment, Concealed, In Position above Objective
Rhustarim - Northwest Deployment, Taking Heavy Bombardment
Directorate - Western Deployment, Limited Contact
Oa 22-2-3rdL - Eastern Deployment, Isolated and Under Assault, Holding
ML 12-4-2ndA - Northeast Deployment, Advancing and Purging. Initial Sectors Cleared, Calling out Strike Operation.
ML 29-4-4thM - Southern Deployment, In Position and Purging Escape Elements
Cz 8-2-1stH - Northwest Deployment, Following Complete Purge and Burn Protocol
HG 1-1-3rdM - Eastern Deployment, Linked up and Moving to relieve Oa 22-2-3rdL
HG 1-1-5thH - Southern Deployment, Artillery Ready to Fire, Awaiting Targets
LoV 55th - On Hot Standby, Possible Strike Operation Available

Bomber Wings: 1 Available, 2 Re-Arming
Heavy Bomber Wing: 1 Available
Artillery: Ready, Awaiting Target
Talon Gunship Strike: On Standby
Blackbird Gunship Strike: On Standby
Overlord Gunship Strike: On Standby (Including Emperors, Revenant)
Evac Team: On Standby
Last edited by Huerdae on Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The Huerdaen Star Empire is an FT Nation.

Xiscapia wrote:It amused her for a time to wonder if the two fleets could not see each other, so she could imagine them blindly stabbing in the dark, like a game of tag, if tag was played with rocket launchers in pitch blackness.

Rezo wrote:If your battleship turrets have a smaller calibre than your penis is long, you're doing it wrong.

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Founded: Feb 02, 2008
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Setulan » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:07 pm

Standby Position: Hammer Station, 5km above the fight
55th Drop Division

Beauregard watched the battle unfolding below with a keen eye, her Heavy Infantry Body Armor (HIBA) accessing the overall command feed being sent down from the Black Shrouded Mother. She cycled through reports deftly and noted the struggles on the surface. She almost brought her troops into the fight after the Olessians were blown to hell, the aggression that saw her assigned as a platoon leader in the most aggressive of divisions giving her a powerful desire to exact vengeance, but a sharp word from Hood on his private channel reminded her that a single platoon couldn't seize a hardened objective meant for a full company with any reasonable chance of success.

So they waited. The trio of Bentnose gunships made deceptively lazy circles with their shields low to mask emissions amid a blanket of radio silence while their pilots kept a sharp eye on the surrounding sky and their ECM suite. Beauregard did her best to remain calm and not fidget, focusing entirely on the feed coming into her helmet until she caught a new report. The young Lieutenant opened a channel to the battleship overhead.

"Sister, this is Bear 6 at Hammer Station. What's the word on the fire the Rhustarim are taking?"

"Bear, Sister. They walked into a bunker complex and immediately started taking indirect fire. Mortars at first, but it looks like they're being hit by some heavier stuff as well."

"What's the location on the big guns, Sister?"

"Around the airfield. They're employing some heavy jamming in the area, and the bombardment scragged some of our ability to pin it down."

Beauregard looked out the window for a moment, cursing softly that the battle group didn't have the kind of orbital observation net that made operations of this nature go much more easily.

"Acknowledge. Sister, I'm committing to the airfield. Chop the Talons to me."

"Wait one, Bear. Need to run that to Sister 0." Several long seconds passed as Beauregard waited anxiously before her vox cackled again, and this time it was Silvoya herself who responded.

"Bear 6, they're yours. Sending freqs now, call sign is Thunder Flight. Spike those guns. Good luck."

"Roger. 6 Out." A channel switch. "Hood, you got that?"

"Yes ma'am. Let's fucking party."

"Bear, Bear, Thunder Lead. What's the play?"

"Loud and Clear, Thunder Lead. Switching channel to Juggernaut Actual, he'll walk you in."

Beauregard gave the nod to the power armored figure sitting next to her, a short Setulan by the name of Garrick. The stocky corporal was one of the company's Fire Support Platoon, assigned to the assault element to help call in the formidable assets the HSE was bringing to bear in theater. A graduate of the Planetary Guard's grueling Fire Support Master Course, he warranted his own in-theater call sign so pilots and gunners knew he wan't an amateur. He immediately got to work.

"Thunder Lead, orbitals show the tubes are near the old airfield, likely on the perimeter road. Some AA on the ground, nothing that should slow you down. They managed to get some birds in the air but a preliminary sweep should handle that. We need the AA smoked. Advise you come in from the sun, Angles 266, fast on the deck. Rockets and guns, then come back around to strafe the tubes."

"Understood, Juggernaut. Coming in hot, follow us down."

The Talons swept in hard and fast, banking out wide on the way down from orbit before cutting back towards the airfield from the assigned angle. Five of the flight went high with the sun at their backs while the rest sprinted in on the deck, in some cases so low that they had to jerk hard to avoid wires and radio towers. The legendary maneuverability of the Talon served them well, though there was a close call or two with low flying birds. The bugs had managed to get several of their own aircraft up above the airfield, a testament to the strength of their bunkers, but they were still too shaken up by the heavy bombardment, too panicked about the invasion, to be paying proper attention. They paid for it as the first Talons screamed in with guns blazing, two of the thrall birds disintegrating in midair as the other three turned hard and began to fight for their lives against the jinking and dancing Huerdaen craft.

Even as the air defense gunners on the ground scrambled to get their weapons pointed towards this new threat, the ground attack began. Twenty Talons shrieked above, rockets unloading in orgasmic bursts of light. Antimatter detonations lit up the already bright day, casting artificial shadows and leaving behind charred husks of thralls when they left anything at all. Coming in waves of five, one after another, they hit everything the Kage-Variant recon bird had highlighted. First the heavy AAA, then the lighter AA guns, and finally the exposed aircraft that the thralls hadn't been able to get airborne yet. It was on the last flight, as the five pilots pulled out fast over the warehouses on the perimeter, that one of the Talons was hit by a monstrous energetic force. The light gunship was in the process of atomizing even as its Antimatter payload cooked off, blotting the pilot and his gunner from existence and nearly killing his wingman. A second Talon took a glancing hit from a second shot, parts of its wing melting off. The pilot managed to recover his aircraft and limped away back to orbit, leaking smoke.

"Juggernaut, this is Thunder Flight. Good news is we found the guns. Bad news is they've got bug tech down there, a real heavy energy weapon. We can make the run but it'll be ugly." A look passed between Garrick and Beauregard. The LT shook her head.

"Negative, Thunder Flight. Thanks for the assist. We'll take it from here."

"Roger. When you get done, it looks like one of my birds is about to go down. They're going to punch out west of the airfield. Swing by and grab them for me."

"Our pleasure, Thunder. Juggernaut out."

Beauregard opened the channel to her squad leaders.

"Hard and fast below the rooftops. High speed grav jump. Rockets as we go in, then we clean it up. Gunships to support. Kill the tubes, then we fan out and spike the ammo dump. Let's get it done."

The three Bentnose Gunships were already moving low and fast (albeit not as fast as the Talons they were following in), but the pilots got even lower and faster with Ita's bird in the lead. They whipped around a section of the warehouse district before dropping to a mind numbing 50 feet, buildings blurring along their flanks. After several agonizingly long minutes of flight the call came out.

"Tallyho! Five SPGs, rockets away! Jump now-now-now!"

What the Bentnose lacked in speed and grace relative to the Talons, it more than made up for in armor and ordnance. More akin to the Huerdaen Blackbird than their lighter cousins, the ungainly craft began volley firing their rockets. 25mm autocannons in the nose and mounted above the rocket pods engaged as well, hosing down concentrations of enemy infantry. The rockets squealed and flashed, impacting along the road before reaching their intended target. A self propelled gun went up in a flash, its ammo cooking off, while another was ripped in half by the heavy firepower. Thralls ran for cover or died in place, screaming as they were burned or doused in the fast acting flesh eating chemicals the Republic loved to employ in their anti-infantry weapons.

Even as the gunships thundered overhead, the doors were open and their most deadly payload was dropping out. Drop trooper variant body armor (DTBA) includes a built in grav chute, and the squads deployed simply by jumping out the door. At such high speeds and low altitudes their armor screamed at the stress, and the experience was horribly uncomfortable. Dropping fast and at high-g, the only thing that kept the troopers alive were in built systems designed to do just that. The Legion of Vengeance hit the ground and began to slaughter. Thralls died in droves, those not already dead or wounded being gunned down with brutal efficiency by veterans who had fought tougher enemies for years.

Beauregard got her first good look at an Ikkittl as soon as she landed. Even in armor it towered over her, and her suit recognized it as a Warrior breed bug. She responded immediately and hosed it down with her K-14 RAWS, punching thirty fat rail rounds into its thorax in two seconds. The beast exploded from within with a keening wail. Two more worker bugs moved sluggishly into her line of sight, still carrying ammo as if unsure what to do with it. She dropped one of them while Garrick, running up next to her, dropped the second. Checking her HUD she realized she was in the back of the assault, and was pleased to see that her platoon was doing exactly what drop troopers are supposed to do upon landing in an LZ - kill everything that moved.

She winced as she saw the icon from one of her troopers in second squad go from green to sickly red.

"Hood! Rear and center is secure. What's going on up there!" She turned to a screaming thrall that ran at her, knife in hand, and crushed his skull with a heavy punch.

"Wait one."

The big sergeant was looking at where one of his troopers used to be standing before he had been pegged by a direct hit from the same style of weapon that had killed the Talon. The soldier's shields had collapsed after a second and then his armor had glowed cherry red before melting through and mulching the man within. The rest of the squad had gone to ground and was exchanging fire with what looked like a dedicated squad of bugs. An immobilized gun was a block and a half away, its tracks shredded and half its crew bleeding. The bugs were using one of the destroyed guns as cover. Five workers and...


"We've got a soldier bug, LT." He turned back to the squad. "Where the fuck are my fucking devils!"

His response was a long burst of automatic fire that drove the warrior back into cover, though not before it ricocheted of his power armor. Hood raised his K-13 and fired a snap shot with the battle rifle, blowing one of the workers off of the mobile gun. His response was a renewed burst of fire, shockwaves that ripped in his direction and forced him into cover. Smashed metal from the warehouse window rained down on him, some of the melted metal cooling on his armor with dry pops. An audible whine came over the battlefield. Not knowing what it was for but knowing that it was probably bad, Hood dove away from his window and relocated just as a huge wave of compressed energy slammed into the window he'd been behind. The entire section blew out, taking the leg of a nearby Legionnaire with it. The man began screaming as his teammate dragged him farther back into cover. Hood let out a shaky breath.

"Mother fucker..."

Sliding behind a concrete pillar, the veteran looked out over the bug position. The workers were a pain in the ass, though another had been killed. Both first and second squads had entered the fight, with four of the light machine guns affectionately called Devils by the troops now providing withering suppressing fire. Another bug died as it peaked out, its head disappearing in a puff of ichor, but even as he watched the Soldier moved through a stream of heavy rail rounds and shrugged them off seemingly without effect. It was like a mobile tank, and that gun...

"Farrow! Get the Mauler ready! Hit the soldier as soon as it shows its ugly goddamn head."

A second later, the high pitched whine filled the firefight. A half second after that, the cough-whoosh of a Mauler spat out, followed almost immediately by a huge explosion. A crisped worker stumbled out on five legs before a storm of fire put it down for good. Another, seemingly mindless, stumbled into the line of fire of a SAW. Of the Soldier bug, only a few burned pieces of armor remained.

"LT! We're clear up here. Got another gun up ahead and a positive location on the last."

"Hood, take first and third and assault that gun. Second, you're on the heavy AA piece with me. Garrick, go with Hood. Ita, I need you to hit that third one. Let's go!"

Blooded and a little bloodied, the Legion of Vengeance moved out.
"When you're as big as a Setulan, you can't go very long without breaking something. Usually someone else's face."-Xiscapia

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The Rhustarim Hegemony
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Founded: Aug 20, 2011
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Rhustarim Hegemony » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:38 pm

War Phalanx Yaradir
Northwestern Deployment

The rhustarim had spent the majority of their fighting in the past century aborad stations, orbital megastructures, or in space itself. The concept of a minefield was foreign to them. So when the ground erupted after the castigons had inadvertently triggered a chain of mines, Yaradir's processes paused. Only for a thousandth of a fraction of a second, but enough to cause an interrupt in the command stream the Sintellect was feeding to the drone army at its disposal. Enough for one or two of the Phoenicars to pause before eliminating a thrall, for an extra mortar round to slip through the point defence grid. For context, the sudden and violent landing of heavy artillery caused less of a distraction.

Yaradir considered its best course of action. Thralls in the buildings weren't providing much in the way of resistance, but leaving them alive was leaving its drone soldiers open to potential damage. Even the most untrained grunt in the galaxy can get a lucky shot on a warmachine if they squeeze off enough rounds. And so long as that curiosity of the minefield remained intact, suffering the occasional bit of damage or total kill to mortar fire was acceptable compared the potential losses crossing the open space between the phalanx and the silo. Without the capacity for counter-battery fire, there were only two real problems Yaradir could solve at this point. Focusing its perception through the lead Castigon, Yaradir took aim at the first of the entrenched gun positions. With two of the Castigons already embedded in artillery position, they had time to fire a single volley of indirect fire before their systems would be ready to go mobile-again. Also, unfortunately, enough time to allow the enemy guns another round of shooting themselves.


The slaved intelligences spent a few precious half seconds co-ordinating with one another in light of their new orders. A few considered asking for clarification - they had, after all, just finished deploying. Input from their guardian phoenicars solved the crisis, informing them of the weakness in the railroad. Right then, two lessons learned - don't question the strategic plan, and don't set up on raised railroads. The first rank of castigons fired as quickly as they were able at the gun emplacements in the field. They blinded the phoenicars, stealing their senses (with a small measure of protest from the lesser intelligences) to triangulate where their shells landed in relation to the gun positions. Take light, shadows, the fall of the volley into account from a dozen vantage points, calculate a more accurate distance to the target and....


With the boss's approval, the two artillery form Castigons loosed single shot of indirect fire each - not enough to eliminate all three entrenched guns but the MBT-forms and phoenicars focused themselves on the last emplacement. A splintering hail of small arms fire from light machine guns spattered harmlessly against the reinforced position, but every landed shot provided more information to the Phalanx and to Yaradir. From the engagement range through to the slope of the armour, Yaradir watched, calculated, and pulsed a command for armour-piercing shells to be loaded. Sloped armour was a problem, but a fortunate shot on the gun port itself should be enough. The artillery-forms were already folding up their stabilisers and letting their railcannons flatten to allow them to move again while their own rounds were in the air.

On to the next order of business, Yaradir's awareness dropping out of the Castigon wing and sliding into the drones securing the occupied buildings. With its focus on them, Yaradir improved the co-ordination of the drones to an even higher level than when they'd been left to their own devices. Occasionally as the drones entered a new building, the lead drone would take fire from an uncovered angle. With Yaradir guiding them,
the next would know the location of the shooter from the angle of the shot and already be aiming as the phoenicar crossed the threshold. Increased awareness and computation couldn't account for the unknown,
and the thralls still managed to catch some of the phoenicars off guard as they continued their quick, and thorough work to clear out the buildings. Yaradir left the fodder-drones to their own devices, eyeing the minefield with a sense that might have been called curiosity through the sensor array of one of its Cormorants.

Now this would be interesting. The fire from the castigons could obviously clear the way, but it would waste valuable ammunition and would almost certainly take too long. Small arms fire would more than likely not trigger the mines, and the Cormorants suffered from the same limitation on heavier ammo that the Castigons suffered. A frontal assault would be costly in terms of dronepower but perhaps the Castigons shields could be repurposed as mine clearance? Yaradir puzzled over a solution while its drones continued their work. The castigons and their escort began their slow move off the high ground of the railroad, unwilling to remain there until the heavier guns were offline, and as buildings started to empty of thralls, phoenicars moved into the streets and found shelter and cover, scanning the open field towards the target silo for something - anything - to shoot at.

Aboard the Black-Shrouded Mother
Laya spent the minutes that passed reviewing her own diagnostics. The information coming in from Yaradir and the Phalanx on the surface was far more than she was interested in (or capable of) keeping up with. So when Yaradir's voice thundered in her skull, it came as a halfway pleasant surprise.


Now that was new. "Unknown. I thought you Warlects accounted for every variable."


Laya sighed, folding her legs and falling to the floor where she had been standing. One of the Immortals looked her way, their face hidden behind reflective glass, and cocked their head in confusion before returning to its silent vigil. No doubt that one and its comrades were busy complaining about why they weren't being deployed, and probably wasting some infinitesimal fraction of Yaradir's awareness making demands to be set loose. So long as Laya didn't have to hear it, they could bitch all they wanted.

She found herself floating above the battlescape, looking through the eyes of what she guessed was a cormorant. Yaradir had, thankfully, translated the information into the visual spectrum of light instead of the mess of different sensory information Cormorants saw in. She recalled a pounding headache the first time her companion SI had dragged her into a drone without that kindness. She'd spent three days vomiting.

"What am I seeing here, buddy?"


"Unknown? They're not showing on sensors?"

The lack of a response provided the answer more efficiently than Yaradir's words could. Undoubtedly if they showed on sensors they wouldn't be a problem, so for whatever reason Yaradir's 'eyes' couldn't penetrate the soil. Laya wondered if it was a range issue, but if Yaradir hadn't already sent a drone in closer to test that theory she wasn't about to suggest it. Time to do what she did best, and talk out loud.

"Okay so what's the point in this strategy? I mean, burying explosives causes an enormous amount of local damage when they detonate."


Laya thought about gritting her teeth. "Yes, of course. These guys like their planets, where structural integrity isn't an issue. One of the few advantages of living on a rock I suppose. Okay, so it's clearly area denial. Which means it's got to be triggered whether someone's watching or not or it defeats the whole point. So that means proximity or pressure sensitive."


"Funny thing about us organics is that sometimes we just don't care. Some civvie gets whacked, it's an acceptable casualty if you also stop an enemy army moving through. There are better ways of area denial, but maybe these guys didn't have access to them. Or they don't care. Take some kind of fuel and you could have a field full of these things done for less than the cost of a soldier." Laya yanked her consciousness back into her body, rolling onto her side on the floor while she regained proper control of her muscles. Yaradir was still listening. "Speaking as a still mostly-meat thing, this isn't about winning efficiently. I get that you Warlects need a specific objective, and you value organic life more than your drones, but when you are organic it's sometimes just about fucking up the other guy worse. Your own well being at the end of it be damned. I'm...honestly surprised we never came up with this idea before we made it into space. It's deviously simple and horrifically effective for how little you have to put into it."


Laya pushed herself to her feet, legs shaky beneath her body. A cold sweat was starting to form on her arms, and she grit her teeth as a wave of nausea hit her. It took a second to flood her body with chemicals to shut it down, by which point her legs had stabilised and she was back to the very picture of professionalism.

"Nothing you haven't already considered I bet. This is a really basic form of area denial - which also means there's no super fancy way to deal with it. At least not with what we've got. You blow it up, or you go through it. And there will be casualties. It doesn't have to be perfect to be effective." The roaring sintellect voice remained silence, its place in her head being replaced the familiar headache that came with that kind of out of body experience. Laya dusted herslef off and returned to her own internal diagnostics, letting her vast array of cybernetics continually self-improve and self-medicate in the wake of the demanding presence of Yaradir.

"Bloody barbaric all the same."
The Rhustarim Hegemony|State of the Galaxy
The only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Telros » Sat Mar 24, 2018 11:41 am

Sir, aerial drones have completed initial pass of the areas designated and have completed their analysis.

Good, show me.

The tactical display in the command center shifted from a view of their front to the overall battlefield, with a white line coming down from the top to the bottom of the screen, removing or adding markers and bits of info as it continued the updating process. As it continued, he grabbed a section, square border lines revealing themselves around it as he pulled it up and out, causing it to grow in size and shunt the overall map to a small corner. This was the location of the Oa 22-2-3rdL, and it revealed much of what he had expected. They were holed up in a defensible position and were resisting any attacks made on their position, but they were being surrounded by a greater amount of the enemy thralls. Although, their attacks had petered off and it seemed like they were waiting for something, a command, an attack, too much was unknown to make a determination. Bronze traced a talon around a couple of patrols that were moving about occasionally from each part of the encirclement.

B: It would appear they have learned the power of the Huerdaen's aerial capabilities and are trying to avoid them with these small patrols.

S: Good catch. They're still threatening the building, so it may just be a containment operation to keep these assets out of the fight and away from any reinforcing groups. Still, they cannot be blind to this-

He shifted the focus over to the Huerdaen group that was being sent to rescue the unit, clearing out resistance, closing off the retreat path and bringing the cordon closed once more.

S: -and yet, they sit there still, not doing anything but contain.

B: It is concerning, sir. Shall I contact, the Huerdaen?

S: Yes, they're not idiots, but a warning is best to make sure they're cautious.

A channel was opened and sent to the HSE command line:

”Command, this is Ghost Company. Aerial reconnaissance has indicated the force surrounding the Oa 22-2-3rdL survivors has not made any moves despite relief forces closing in and are focused on the unit in the building. Be advised, we suspect possible ambush or trap being prepared for both groups. We will send over any further updates on the situation and are ready for any requests for information or fire support from either group. Ghost Company, out.”

As it was sent off, the response also came in regarding intel on the energy burst weaponry that had been revealed on said survivors. Silver read over the report quickly and his feathers twisted in a grimace.

B: That is...concerning.

S: Indeed, especially as this means its not located in the hospital, but somewhere that's not shielded. We could get hit next for all we know. The power surge should make it visible, but not in time for us to avoid a two kilometer blast. Instruct one of our aerial drone reconnaissance groups to task themselves to search out any similar or same patterns as the Huerdaen Concussive weapons. If they start seeing them, have them inform us immediately.

B: As you say, Colonel. The pickets have arrived back.

S: Good, our reputation of efficiency is being upheld. Let's see what we have in front of us, shall we?

Silver pushed the square back into the map, and after the full battlefield had reconstituted itself, brought out the square that was their front. Two soldiers popped in, snapped quick salutes, which Silver returned before indicating with a nod for them to begin. One walked over to the map and began interacting with it as he explained.

In our sweep, we have determined that the reason there was so little resistance to our landing and fortification upon arrival is that most of the citizenry in this area were dead before our arrival. Before the Huerdaen assault, even.

A circle was indicated of their reconnaissance area, with dots showing instances of dead people found. He grabbed both sides and expanded it, further dots adding themselves in greater numbers as it moved.

We continued to find more and more, entire families killed. Early scans indicate signs of stomach acids and food around the bodies, and traces of some kind of chemical agent, so indicators are pointing to a mass poisoning of some kind. That is when we found this;

The circle was compressed around a single dot, which pulled up the picture of a young boy, eyes glassy and bereft of life or thought, and holding some kind of box.

His family was dead around him and he was left. We've...tried to get any response out of him but other than obeying any orders to follow, he says or does nothing. We suspect the box is a recording unity and initial attempts at access were allowed, so we believe it to be unlocked.

Silver stared at the picture of the boy, gazing over the image. It could be trauma that has done this to this human child, but it was more possible that he was brainwashed into this by the Ikkittl. It was either incomplete, or he was made to be a transport for this. Either way, this was a possible trap, as free info like this on a battlefield seemed...oddly timed at best, contrived at worst.

S: Have the boy moved to an isolated cell in the headquarters, have them set up an interface to check the security of the device for any bugs, virus, as well as having one of the medics check the human. The whole place is to be isolated from any outside networks and treated as containment for NBC concerns. I want full suits for any interacting with the boy and this recorder, and to have AVATAR operators on standby to contain any attempt to breach the digital cordon. We have an opportunity here, but let's not be stupid. Captain,

B: Sir.

S: Send another message to the Huerdaen, inform them of the cache we found and what we intend to do. Advise caution to any other units if they find these, we'll try to see if they're a trap or not.

B: Yes sir.

Silver moved his attention back to the pickets who resumed their debriefing. The circle was re-expanded and then pushed out again, revealing signs of resistance and struggle. Barricades had been erected, the holes and spray of battle self-evident, indicating the people here had resisted their coming end. These people had put up a worthy struggle, and being neighbors to the Huerdaen Star Empire, it made sense they were able to hold out for so long.

We matched the scans of the drones with the records the Huerdaen provided and it seems standard Ikittitl tactics were employed here. Once they could not breach the barricades here, they simply waited for the pheromones to take over the less hardy of them and then ruined them from within, with poison it seems.

A thought rapidly occurred to Silver and he keyed open the comm channel with a desperate speed, contacting Huerdaen command again.

”Command, this is Lieutenant Colonel Silver, we believe the thralls may be attempting to convert the Oa 22-2-3rdL survivors they have encircled via the pheromones. Advise to check if they still have intact NBC capabilities, as if not they may be overcome from within or attempt to attack the relief element. We have found evidence of a similar event having happened to the civilians in our sector.”

With that sent by the speed of thought, the picket team finished their report.

We have also managed to get better scans of the area. We have confirmed there is a subterranean section to the city, the waste management and sewer systems are still largely intact. It leads to both to the Hegemonic and our objective zones. The good news is that we have determined the Hellhammer rounds have opened up another section for the Hegemonic forces to use, but most of the underground routes to ours are collapsed save for one obviously fortified section, which we believe to be a key point.

However, the bad news is that the tunnels are also linked to the sewage tunnels, and our scans cannot penetrate into those sections. We don't know how many are down there, their positions, strength and so forth, but we do know only a few of those passages are large enough for thralls to be in, so while we don't know how many wait under our feet, we can identify groups and take them out before getting into a close quarters fight.

Their report finished, they both stepped to their respective points on either side of the map and waited. Bronze moved up to Silver's side as they conversed on their private channel again.

B: This could get very bad, very fast if we're not careful. We could have the whole enemy strikeforce in this area right underneath us. Further, if the tunnels are right under us, they could collapse our fortified positions.

S: You are correct, so this means we'll have to go about this carefully. Our previous options were to either moved closer to the Hegemonic objective, but as our drones are showing, they're getting hammered by mortar fire, and we'll be in range of that. If get bogged down in a fight, we could get obliterated by mortar and enemy fire.

B: But if we advanced on the remaining route, we'd have to split up our forces into three groups and they could try to defeat us in series, and even if we get past that mostly unscathed, the run up to the stadium is going to full of entrenched guns and mortar or even artillery fire.

S: Exactly. In both of those sections, their greater numbers can pin us down and keep us from being able to move. Now, the sewer option, while restricting our movement, also restricts theirs, and we can herd them into killzones and manage them effectively. And once we have cleansed that area, we can ensure our flanks and rear are protected and they can only come to us from the front, where our superior training, equipment and technology can be brought to bear. We keep our advantage, they lose theirs.

B: It's still a risk, we won't be able to bring any of our vehicles into the tunnels.

S: All three are a risk, its a matter of how much we can reduce the risk with these options and still complete our objective. Our vehicles will stay here and help defend our HQ. If we find the underground option is untenable, we'll move back, collapse the tunnels and move along the other objectives. We'll lose time, but I'd rather lose time than lose soldiers due to reckless action.

The Colonel and Brass finished glancing at each other for a couple seconds for their conversation and then moved their attention to the pickets.

You report that all strays were picked off in this region?

Yes sir.

Very well. Inform 1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons that they are to prepare to move out into the underground system, a briefing will be prepped and sent to all NCO's to brief their groups. We are going to send in smaller sensor drones to investigate and try and get a better idea of whats down there. Doing so may disturb the nest, so 4th and 5th Platoons are to maintain defensive positions and all available vehicles are to be on standby to assist in repelling any enemies. Once we have gotten enough information, we'll be moving out. Captain Brass will be here to manage the HQ while I lead our platoons to the objective. Dismissed.

Both saluted again and left, going to spread the orders alongside the com packets being sent across the battlenet, informing platoon officers in seconds who began rousing their units and preparing. A squad in the headquarters unit moved out a box and depressed the center button, causing a hiss of steam to issue as the pressure lock broke and revealed a set of six small spheres. These were the Directorate's sensor drones, packed full of expensive and powerful sensor suites in a small package, and equipped with material and to help bend light, making it hard to see them. The activation and pre-mission checklist were completed and then handed off to 1st Platoon, whom were directed to go to the primary entrance and set up a defensive perimeter, the HQ squad would then deploy the drones into the sewers, to expand and gain intel, just as they did with the aerial drones. Their active camouflage would engage as soon as they were past the threshold and begin passive sensor scanning, in case they had units in their to detect active scanning. Active scanning could be done either in areas not shown to have detection suites or at the last moment to get better data.

As forces were mobilizing and more prep work was being done, a channel was opened to the Hegemonic forces.

”Hegemonic Command, this is Ghost Company HQ, we are forwarding over scans of the area indicating a large subterranean network of tunnels and sewage accesses that could be useful for forces to move towards your objective and negate the enemy's fire support. In particular, there is one exposed point you could use. These sections connect both of our objectives, so one could aid the other should they find themselves in a position to do so after completing their mission. Be advised, however, that scans have not been able to penetrate the sewer sections, so enemy force deployment and tactics are unknown in those areas. We have begun probing of our sections, will update with further information as it comes in. Ghost Company HQ, out.”
Last edited by Telros on Sat Mar 24, 2018 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Democratic Socialists

Postby Xiscapia » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:41 pm

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Northern Deployment...

When she had confirmation that the strike package was inbound Sei found it comforting, in the strange way the Lace worked. She simply knew that the bombers were on their way, and an ETA of what time it would arrive. If it changed, she would simply know otherwise. How it all worked was beyond her, but it satisfied her old habit of keeping talk to a minimum when she was in combat, even if there was little to no chance of her voice being picked up by hostiles. She kept the knowledge of the incoming support with her as they stopped before the makeshift barricades, using her scanners to look closely at the scattered corpses while a specialist moved in. The people here had figured out there was a threat, but all too late. If these soldiers had arrived sooner then maybe this world wouldn't be facing its own apocalypse.

She simply nodded when Vii confirmed that the trap had been disarmed, relieved. Keeping stealthy was preferred, and not taking any casualties to a roadside bomb was even better. The anthro had just enough time to raise her eyes to watch the buildings that the Huerdaen strike craft were targeting. If it hadn't been for her cybernetics alerting her she never would have known the attack was happening until the first tower was already covered in rippling fire. One rocket after another tore the structure down to its foundation, razed so totally that there was little more than smoke and dust wafting over the charred debris. Her cybereyes compensated automatically to the brilliant flare of the shield around the other tower, but there was hardly any time between the realization and the second bombing run, and that sent the other skyscraper crumbling almost as quickly as the first.

"Damn good show, girl. That'll make our job easier. We owe you one."

That was one call Sei didn't mind responding verbally to, especially not after all the explosives she had called in. "Happy to help. Let's roll 'em up." The company moved forward with new zeal, advancing quickly at first and only slowing as they drew closer to the overwatch point. As they crept closer and the reports began to come in she was satisfied: the freeway provided a practically perfect position to get a measure of their objective and the area around it. Moving low and swift, she crossed the median of dead grass to the opposite edge, all but lying down as she popped up her fiber-optic camera to get a personal look. Between her own eyes and sensors and the streams of information her platoons were feeding her she quickly compiled a layout of her relevant area of operations.

The snap drew her away from her musings, and she looked up sharply to find that her unit wasn't the only one with the high-ground advantage. The Workers weren't as threatening as machinegun nests or conventional snipers, but they were also much more mobile and harder to target. Scowling, she took them in with a slow sweep of her head. Her company probably had enough marksmen to deal with them, but not without removing no small amount of firepower from focusing on the actual objective. Irritating.

"What's our move, Blue?"

"I hope there is a barracks down there. I'd love for them to all come boiling up so we can pound them with rockets and artillery out in the open," Sei gritted her teeth. "But we don't have that luxury yet. We need more information." Turning, she picked out a certain AXIS squad from among all the others, notable because it included what was easily the largest sapient among them. The jacamine was clad in power armor like the rest of them, but that only accentuated the alien's nature, from the tapering point of the head to the armored panels for the eyes on each side of the body down to the many tentacles the creature stood on below. Most jacamine were pacifists, but he wasn't, and with psychic powers and a surprising amount of sheer physical strength he was an effective fighter. He was an even better scout.

At the command the jacamine lifted off the ground, hovering a few inches above before gliding away with his tendrils trailing behind. He was out of sight in moments, leaving even his squad behind, though Sei wasn't worried for him. Even if an Ikittitl caught him unawares, she would almost feel sorry for the insectoid. Before long he was able to confirm, the translated voice simply informing her that the structure designated as Building Three was unoccupied: he had sensed no life in there. That crossed off the planetary guard base, leaving her with five targets. "I don't think it's Building Two, even if they did fortify it our weapons would be able to flatten it. That won't be an issue even if we don't initially destroy it. Zero and Four both have obvious defenses, and Five is a superior position for a heavy weapon. I say we target those points for destruction -after we call in another fire mission. Incendiaries this time, we can burn the Workers off the high points and probably eliminate a few of those enemy positions before we actually start shooting. Above all, I want us in good defensive positions here in case there is a barracks down there and they start swarming out. We're not fighting them all in the tunnels if we can help it."
Last edited by Xiscapia on Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Huerdae » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:29 pm

I.M.S. Black-Shrouded Mother, Black Saracen-Class Cruiser
Operational Command

At the information from the Directorate, Silvoya simply nodded. It wasn't unheard of, but their assumptions were wrong. The birds were doing well, though. Securing a landing zone, playing it safe. They were easily a professional group, preparing each action before taking the plunge. it was likely that they would do well in this operation.

She left their handling to another officer, instead paying attention to the relief of the Oa 22-2-3rdL. They were being picked up now, since the mechanized had passed their location and secured it against attack. A paltry few remained, but Silvoya made a note to keep the unit in play, and not withdraw them completely. The soldiers were still in effective units, and could provide support for others if needed.

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Undercomplex Entrance

It took only a few moments for the guns to start firing at Sei's orders, with the same simple acknowledgement as before. Prepared as they were, above and slightly away from the target, the Saint's Guard had a clear view as the rounds came streaming in. Despite the thunderous report in the distance, the inbound was lost to the speed of the shell, arriving before even the weapon's scream could be heard.

The first detonated right above the entrance, leaving a hot red blood-like haze that hung over the target location. Within moments, more shells were bursting all over the area, causing exposed objects to seemingly burst into flame under the red fog. Workers clinging to the nearby buildings chittered in surprise, fighting to climb up above the settling plasma cloud. Those caught within twitched pathetically as their bodies failed almost immediately, falling deeper into the haze until they were lost as blood-red seemed to blot out the ground, swallowing up the bodies. All around them, buildings burst into flame, steel melting and warping while concrete cracked and collapsed. Below, the long, low warbling of a dying soldier could be heard, somehow cutting through the chittering screams of the workers.

Stones on the ground burst, while plant live seemingly vaporized, becoming char and blowing away in the deadly wind that carried the haze more toward the city center. Buildings large and small seemed sabotaged by the attack, and nearby, what looked like an apartment structure half-covered in the fog leaned over, bursting into flame, then collapsed into little more than a pile of slag and ash, with thick black smoke streaming up from the ground, concealing most of what could be seen below.

Shortly after, rounds smashed buildings that were still aflame, collapsing them to keep the fires from spreading further into the city, and creating a visible barrier to the hellish landscape within the strike zone. A few of the workers that had managed to climb high and fast enough to avoid the strike fell to the crack of the unit's rifles, but below, nothing visible survived.

It was only when Building four could be seen, only partially collapsed, that the Huerdaen called out a warning. The air seemed to hum, and her unit scattered from the center of the overpass. A cry of "Bastion gun!" rang out from the group just before a sudden blast shattered the concrete like it was merely hard plastic, throwing rebar and rock like shrapnel in all directions.

The entire center of the overpass collapsed, taking with it mercifully few of her soldiers, but the blast had been almost five meters in radius, easily isolating the Guard in two units. A few surviving warriors began to clatter and chitter, giving away their positions as the few survivors tried to fight their way to the ground to withdraw into the now-exposed entrance.

Below them, the entire area seemed to be belching black into the sky, but it was easily the safest place from the last surviving defensive emplacement the Ikittitl had over the area. Vii wasted no time in throwing himself from the overpass to the hellscape below. His feet crunched unnaturally on the flash-incinerated ground, throwing up clouds of ash from where he hit the dirt. It took some effort to recognize that where he stood was the remains of a car, where the sheet metal had warped and melted into little more than a pile of slowly hardening metal. Its appearance was not unlike that of a melted corpse, with flesh sloughing off, all saved for eternity as it once more hardened in place.

All around, the area looked nothing like it had before. Those objects that survived invariably glowed white-hot, and many still slid or shifted as their once-rigid structure now merely sloughed away. It was a nightmare scene where the ground popped and sizzled, and the bodies of the dead where burned into nothing but yet another part of the heavy black smoke that obscured the worst of the area. Even with cybernetic eyes, visibility was limited, but the worst were the buildings. The garages and other heavier industrial locations had become more like gaping maws, like the screaming remains of the city put on display forever. The empty souls of those who had once lived and worked here lost before even the flames hit.

Down on the ground, the distance to the Bastion gun seemed much further, with part of the concrete box now visible, popping and sizzling as the residual heat ate at the protective box. Some of the Guard began to move toward the entrance, only for the shivering hum to once more occur, this time detonating a patch of ground between them and the entrance to the facility, starting to collapse what had once been the subway stairs, as the defenders tried to cut off access. Alone, it stood in defiance of her team.

War Phalanx Yaradir
Northwestern Deployment

The rounds from the heavy Castigons annihilated the defensive positions, but the last continued firing, forcing the vehicular drones off the railway moments before it collapsed. With that vantage point closed to them, the only direct option now was an assault into the minefield, and the waiting guns of the thrall defenders.

With the information from the Directorate, the Rhustarim began to move. Their path took them away from the immediate fire of the facility, though they were still harassed by mortar fire, the strike by the Legion had completely silenced the artillery. This opening gave Yaradir time to prepare his approach.

While the heavier Castigons couldn't make their way down into the sewers, there were several entrances nearby, that a quick sweep from the smaller, more nimble phoenicars began to probe out the nearby entrances. There were two that were viable ways into the sewers, and a third that led into the subway system. This system had clear and obvious traps and fortifications surrounding the entrance, though nothing to the level of the military base that served as the Rhustarim objective. A group of Ikittitl protected it, and despite the ability to bring the large Castigons into the system, it would leave them woefully exposed. Further information from the Directorate also indicated that it did not connect to the system in a way that would permit the use of the Castigon at the objective anyway. These were able to fortify in a secure location away from the objective, where the point defense of the cormorants could protect against the mortars easily enough. The position continued to suffer from thrall infantry attacks, but they were still weak and haphazard. It was likely they were simply making sure the drones didn't leave the area.

With that in mind, the two sewer entrances served as viable entry points. In each case, welded bars were all that kept the drones from entering, and in these were easily and quickly removed. The inside seemed almost agonizingly quiet without the constant firing of mortars on the position, it seemed almost eerie. The entirety of the battle was now distant, with the larger drones remaining outside while the scouts moved forward. Gently curving sewer tunnels lay before them, with minimal mapping. However, both of the tunnel approaches led to a central chamber, where the sewage gathered. there were four such intersections on the way to where the Huerdaen round had breached the tunnel system, allowing them entrance, but the passage forward was still mostly unknown. With the Ikittitl jamming in place, the location of any defenses or traps were completely unknown.

The tunnels before them followed a consistent curve, along the major street above. The sewer itself had a significant amount of blood now flowing in the waters, much of it blackened by the effect from the Ikittitl pheromone. At the end of the sewer pipe investiated by the first team, a pile of corpses lay, as if they had been gunned down by something further down the tunnel, their bodies hewn apart and shattered like so many of those above.

The other was empty, though it had a series of offshoots, and it continued straight forward. The remains of a barricade were there, though with the sewer entrance still having been barred, there was no clear indication against what it had been barricaded. The pipe here was wider, and a little lower, making it easier to spread out from side to side in the low path.

55th Drop Division of the Legion of Vengeance, Huerdaen Levy
Airbase 'Impotence'

The assault on the guns was going spectacularly. The thralls had made preparations ahead of time, and some fired from prepared sandbag bunkers and other fortifications, but the talons and bentnose had wiped out everything that could be easily identified. Even before the Legion had hit the ground, the infantry and light vehicles in the area were reeling. The strange mix of aliens had been trying to fight their way to their feet when the rounds tore through their bodies, leaving them to fall once more to the ground.

Within moments of their arrival, the Legion had littered the entire area in the bodies of Ikittitl and their thralls, including the shattered armor of one of the soldier bugs. Even now, workers scrambled around the flanks of the Legion, keeping out of more traditional combat locations to fire from odd sides and odd angles. One of the more intact warehouses nearby had a dozen of the small, meter-long bugs clinging to the roof, firing down at the Legionnaires as they moved toward their objectives.

The immobilized artillery piece didn't have a chance as the Legion continued to advance, and the 'crew' of the weapon gave up trying to fix that track, instead kicking the remaining track into full forward gear, trying to spin the vehicle and its massive gun at the approaching infantry. Another mauler coughed, slamming into the still-exposed side of the vehicle, causing it to stop. For a few seconds, black smoke curled out of the vehicle, but that ended suddenly as something within got caught in internal flames, and the entire chassis detonated, blasting the entire area in a shockwave that even knocked down the forward few flaming skulls.

To Hood's left, a partially collapsed building shifted, and then a large roof segment simply fell inward, as a gaping hole appeared, revealing what could only be a pre-planned trap. A group of a dozen soldiers, their fronts armored in armor pulled from damaged and destroyed vehicles that made them look like battering rams instead of combatants, scrambled from the rubble.

Their helmeted heads were visible above the multiple heavy layers of local steel, concrete, and other ad-hoc armor as they chittered, clicked, and screeched in their foreign language. Moments after appearing, they stormed forward, throwing themselves at any cover the Legion attempted to take. One slammed into the wreck of one of the destroyed artillery pieces, causing the entire wreck to shift back almost a meter, and throwing those who took cover on the far side to the ground. Unconcerned, it clambered over the wreck, tossing the shield down onto one of the prone soldiers, before rounds perforated its exposed body. All around, chaos ensued.

Most carried the shields in two of their arms, wielding blades that were clearly designed after the Huerdaen slayer blade in their two remaining hands, trying to cut into the Setulans who they fought, most went down quickly as they exposed their backs and sides to other positions.

A few managed to isolate small groups, forcing the Legion to scramble to keep out of the long reach of the soldiers, even as the true danger of the pit started to come free. What Hood had come to recognize as the Soldier's heavy weapons whined loudly as first dozens,then what seemed like hundreds of the workers scurried from the hole. Some clung to the backs of even more heavily armored soldiers that strode, unarmed, into the fray, carrying shields that they shifted around their body to protect the dozens of workers riding their backs, each of which wore a helmet connected to the tanks on their back that no doubt contained the frenzy-inducing pheromone, forcing it into their lungs for the fight. The workers attached there chucked smooth, almost beautiful-silver orbs at the Legion, forcing them back. Within moments of striking the ground, the orbs burst energy outward, shattering any rigid structure within a few meters of the orb, turning armor to shrapnel and bones into grenades inside their owners. As the workers caught up, they merely tossed them again, they pressed them to an apparatus on the Soldier's back, and tossed them again, recharged and ready to be re-used.

Even among them, more soldiers armed with the linear cannons strode from the hole, in much smaller numbers, but it was clear that if the rate didn't slow, the soldiers alone would outnumber the Legion within a few minutes. To the far side of the road, a copse trees began to lean, then fall, with an ancient oak collapsing into the ground, before suddenly detonating into wooden shards, as it was blasted apart and another similar group of Ikittitl began to clamber out of the dark opening.

As chaos struck at the advancing Legion, Bow's team sought out the fortified heavy gun. Having identified a likely position, they were almost on top of it when the ground collapsed in front of them, revealing the same shield-bearing soldiers as before, their energized blades swinging wildly in their pheromone-induced blood rage. Luckily, the opening hole caused a nearby structure to collapse into it, blocking the worst of the numbers and slowing their advance, but revealing a heavily reinforced, concrete box. The location was clearly a bunker, but with no apparent entrance, view ports, or gun port. It fit perfectly into the description of an Ikittitl bastion gun, their localized artillery pieces.

All around base of the concrete position, concealed launchers began coughing out the silver orbs in an apparently random order, only for them to roll into a carefully-prepared ditch, drop into holes, and presumably be re-used seconds later to keep up the barrier of concussive blasts to keep the Legion from getting close enough to plant heavier explosives. Luckily, the building didn't appear to have the heat-distortion so common on heavily shielded objects, indicating it may not have such an energy barrier protecting it.

Tezekian Directorate
Western Deployment

The captured boy didn't fight in the least in being moved, merely shambling forward with their simple urging. It wasn't even clear if he could understand them. Instead, he merely seemed to be following their gestures, with a black-tinged drool slowly leaking from his gaping mouth. He didn't seem to understand their speech, and upon closer inspection it seemed that when he did understand, he obediently obeyed without question or hesitation.

The device was harmless enough, and didn't appear to contain any malicious code. It could even be played without connecting to any other system, permitting it to be watched on the small screen on the device. What it showed, however, was damning.

It showed a scene, heavily obscured like the boy was in hiding, of a number of Ikittitl. They chittered and clattered to each other, as they surrounded the table, and across from which a male alien and a family, including two females, faced off against them. It was the same group that were seen dead in the home. After the report had been sent tot he Huerdaen, a cypher was sent so that Tezekian translators could understand the Ikittitl language, which allowed the scene to play out in its full horror, despite the local language being, at best, summarized and filled in with

A worker had reared up on its hind legs, putting the forward two of its six against the table so it could gain some semblance of height when dealing with the armed man before it. It appeared unarmed as it spoke.

"We have no need for you or your family, and like many others, your resistance has proven problematic. We would like to offer you a meal and exit so we can continue our work. We no longer have time to fight. You may have safe passage off the world. I will supply ships."

The man kept the shotgun-like weapon pointed at the big armored soldier nearby, which looked entirely unphased by the firearm, and likely with good reason. The two females kept handguns trained on the half-dozen workers that lingered nearby, curiously inspecting the home. "I'm not gonna play games. I'll blow your <local diety>-damned heads off! This better be no trick."

The worker held up its hands disarmingly, and gestured to the table, where food had been laid out. "We understand you are starving. We offer a meal a meal as a parting gift."

The man looked even more concerned by that. It was clear from his state that he had fought some of the creatures previously, but his eyes went to the food hungrily. The females did the same, one of them visibly excited. The one holding the camera shifted, and several looked in his direction, causing the male to suddenly agree, desperate to hide the location of his child. "Alright. But on one condition. You let me eat first, so that I know my family is safe."

The worker didn't even hesitate, instead dropping his legs from the table and bowing, stepping away with all six legs and allowing the family to approach. The females were excited, and the male stepped forward to the plate. He hesitated a moment, before grabbing something poorly visible and taking a single bite. He chewed it carefully, then swallowed, looking at the females. Quietly, one spoke. "Are you okay?"

He seemed to consider it, but the worker then approached, all prior caution thrown to the wind. Authoritatively, it spoke to the man. "Look at me."

The man's head snapped down obediently, without hesitation. His expression showed confusion, and the worker rubbed its chitinous hands together with pleasure. "Ignore any commands from any beings but myself."

The man nodded, and the women just screamed, raising their handguns at the worker, but it just slipped behind the male, using his leg as protection, while they screamed obscenities at it, alternating between cursing the worker-leader and begging the male to snap out of it.

Calmly, the worker gave his orders to the male, his voice displaying a certain level of curiosity. "Kill your family."

The male didn't even hesitate as he slaughtered the first of the females, his own eyes wide with terror and horror at what his body was doing. He continued off the screen to where an infant's cries could be heard, only to be cut short in a crunch. Footsteps began to approach where the camera holder was, as the other female screamed at him to stop, only to be gunned down directly in front of the camera holder. The male took another step to advance, apparently ready to kill the boy, but he stopped, lurching forward and spewing a deep black puke from his gut, collapsing. He howled in some unimaginable pain, hand reaching toward the door, before he finally fell still.

The worker seemed suddenly content, rubbing its hands together. "Very much improved. Survival time almost a full minute. Ingestation is very potent. We can prepare the initial doses for use elsewhere. Get these on the first shipment. I need samples from this batch, and the other four successful ones. Twenty tons of catalysts for each. Enthralling by ingestion may be the best solution after all. Lord Tutukiku the Victor is mighty."

The last phrase was mimicked by the others in the room and they filed out, taking the vehicle they had offered, and leaving the food. After several minutes, the boy stepped out. From this point forward, there were a few instances of recording, where he spoke to the camera in some manner of video diary, but no more instances of the Ikittitl returned. The last few appeared to be two days later or longer, where he had black blood and puss dripping from his nose, or the corner of his eyes. He was slow-thinking, then, and the timestamp showed that had been almost five days ago. The onset of the pheromone in his system had taken almost two weeks to reach this point.

The platoons that moved into the sewers were split into two groups by Silver's orders, with the first and second platoons heading down one path, and third and fourth down a second. Fifth platoon remained in the defensive position, keeping the area secure against enemy attack. For the time being, however, the Tezekian forces remained unentangled. A quick search of the systems beneath their defensive location indicated that it was not filled with the Ikittitl, though there were signs that some creatures had lived in the tunnel systems. Food wrappers, some primitive weapons, and even clothes and bedding were laying in several dry locations.

Their path led them to a series of tunnel, most of which were empty and abandoned. First and second platoons worked their way through the tunnels which curved slowly back and forth until they came to an intersection of a series of pipes. Third and fourth reached the same area from a different direction. Eight different sewage pipes emptied into the room from various directions, with a small area elevated from the water flow with access to the city above. There, behind sheets and thin metal siding stolen from somewhere nearby, a group of what appeared to be thralls took a shot at the avian forces, wildly missing with a limited slugthrower, likely suffering from poor maintenance.

What set them apart from the thralls, however, was their frenzied, half-mad chatter.

"Those aren't bugs! Don't shoot them!"

"You idiot! They could be bug-slaves! Don't tell me what to do, now what if they're enemies!?"

"Just...gun to someone else..I...damnit, how do you suggest without telling people what to do?"

"Let's talk to them, right? They're nice, I hope? Maybe they have food?"

Finally, the first, who had now given the weapon away, rose, carefully, peeking out at the avians. One of his eyes was blackened, rotting out of his head, and the same black sludge dripped from the corner of his mouth as he called out to the soldiers below.

"Don't tell us what to do, okay? We...we can't help it. Just let us get out of here? If you don't give us orders, we can be us. We can think. We're still us. Right?"

His final word seemed uncertain, as if he was asking the group with him, instead of the avians.

Saint's Guard - Undercomplex Entrance, Under Fire
Rhustarim - Northwest Deployment, Fortified and making progress into Sewer system
Directorate - Western Deployment, Fortified HQ and making progress into Sewer system
Oa 22-2-3rdL - Withdrawing and Reorganizing
ML 12-4-2ndA - Northeast Deployment, Advancing and Purging. Initial Sectors Cleared, Strike Operation Declined - Entrance Closed.
ML 29-4-4thM - Southern Deployment, In Position and Purging Escape Elements
Cz 8-2-1stH - Northwest Deployment, Following Complete Purge and Burn Protocol
HG 1-1-3rdM - Eastern Deployment, Linked up and relieving Oa 22-2-3rdL
HG 1-1-5thH - Southern Deployment, Artillery Ready to Fire, Awaiting Targets
LoV 55th - In combat at location Impotent, Facing enemy counter-strike

Bomber Wings: 1 Available, 2 Re-Arming
Heavy Bomber Wing: 1 Available
Artillery: Ready
Talon Gunship Strike: Minimal Damage, On Stanby
Blackbird Gunship Strike: On Standby
Overlord Gunship Strike: On Standby (Including Emperors, Revenant)
Evac Team: On Standby
The Huerdaen Star Empire is an FT Nation.

Xiscapia wrote:It amused her for a time to wonder if the two fleets could not see each other, so she could imagine them blindly stabbing in the dark, like a game of tag, if tag was played with rocket launchers in pitch blackness.

Rezo wrote:If your battleship turrets have a smaller calibre than your penis is long, you're doing it wrong.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Setulan » Sat May 19, 2018 7:59 am

55th Drop Division of the Legion of Vengeance, Huerdaen Levy
Airbase Impotence

Lieutenant Beauregard was not a novice despite this being her first assignment as a platoon leader. To qualify for the Republic's Officer Candidate School one had to lead troops in combat, and she had done so for most of the Fringe Campaign. So when she and her squad were advancing through the warehouse district unopposed despite the cacophony of gunfire outside she didn't think that she was lucky - she thought she was about to be ambushed. Memories of Latharoki spider holes still fresh in her mind, she had her squad slow their breakneck advance and began scanning all spectrum of light and her sensors to see what was going on. It was as she was flipping through her settings and hit on magnetics that she saw what she was looking for.


"Back, back now!"

The forward team broke off just in time as the ground collapsed and a huge swinging soldier came storming out. It was immediately gunned down, and the second to reach out of the hole had its head blown off by a launched grenade, but there were too many of them to kill them all as they appeared. Fortunately they were more angry than skilled, and they ran obligingly into the waiting guns of the Legion. Despite that one of the troopers got hit, losing an arm before his team leader gutted the soldier bug with his own powered sword. It was definitely time to leave.

"Barrow, Nova the bastion!"

"Way ahead of you, LT. Nova, Nova, Nova!"

The call went over the platoon's channel and everyone in the squad tinted their visors, reducing the incoming light dramatically. The grenadier hefted the Mauler to his shoulder - micro-nova warhead already in the tube - and took a second to aim before unleashing it. The round spat out and actually penetrated through a charging warrior bug before colliding with the bastion. It dug in almost a meter before detonating but when it did it was spectacular. A pulsing wave of white light erupted from the breached containment chamber of the not quite stable plasma reaction and annihilated the bastion gun. Secondary explosions as the artillery piece detonated ripped through the tunnels underneath and slaughtered more bugs while those that had made the surface were caught up in the explosion and fried. A handful of Legionaries were knocked over, but most had been able to brace for the impact.

"We're out of here, Legion! Break contact, back to the LZ!"

On the street, Hood and his squads were in increasing danger. The nest of bugs atop the warehouse were handled with a pair of grenades fired from the under slung launchers present in each squad, but the never ending horde of insects was taking its toll. The warrior bugs in particular were dangerous to the power armored soldiers thanks to sheer physical strength. Before Hood's eyes one of the bugs ran through one of his soldiers as easily as man opens a can beans with a knife before throwing the screaming trooper at another member of his squad, knocking both over. Much like his platoon leader the wily sergeant had begun to suspect an ambush when the attack began going too well and had been preparing for it. What he hadn't expected was the sheer volume. His SAW gunners had burned through two thirds of their ammunition already just to keep the workers at bay, and one of them had actually melted a barrel and gone down. The gunner and his a-gunner were trying desperately to break off the fused barrel but the slack in fire had an immediate effect. The Ikkittl renewed their assault with a cacophony of screaming heavy weapons fire that detonated concrete and flesh all over the street, vaporizing barriers and walls or turning scrap into shrapnel.

Pinned down with the FST Garrick, the big Sergeant First Class turned to the man and gave him a not-so-gentle tap on the shoulder.

"Any fucking time, Corporal."

"Had to wait for the bastion gun to go down...air support in 30 seconds!"

"We might not fucking have thirty seconds - "

As if to underline the veteran's point, a high scream came from down the street where a private had his visor turned to shrapnel by a good shot from a worker.

Ten seconds. The horde advanced behind a renewed wave of warriors with shields. The Legion utilized their disc grenades, heavy high explosive discuses that they lobbed over the heads of the enemy to rain fire on them from above. It worked, knocking down a handful of warriors and allowing the two squads to concentrate their fire.

Twenty seconds. Another push. The workers were clambering over their own dead to get to the Setulans and utterly ignoring their own safety to do it. Thralls joined them, adding solid gunfire to the mix.

Thirty seconds. No air support. Range under ten meters. Hood pulled out a heavy bladed powered knife while Garrick removed a wicked ax with a pulsing purple energy field. A second SAW went down, either from enemy fire or a lack of ammunition Hood didn't know. It didn't matter. The effect was immediate as the bugs surged...

And were blown to pieces by rockets and heavy rail fire as Ita kicked her Bentnose into hover directly over the beleaguered platoon. The noise was deafening as she unloaded dozens of rockets into the advancing horde and ran her Banshees on cyclic. She was joined moments later by the other two gunships and the bugs began to fall back towards their hole in a desperate attempt to take cover. The first gunship sank down as the LT and her squad burst through a brick wall, not bothering with doors. The wounded were hauled onto the first bird, followed by second squad. The gunship rose up and began a hunter killer patrol, orbiting the LZ and hosing any concentrations of insects. The second Bentnose landed, and then the third, and finally the entire platoon was back in the air.

Hood and Beauregard looked at each other in the back of Ita's bird in silence for a moment.

"Well. That was interesting."

"That's one word for it. Final count?"

Hood checked his display.

"One dead, six wounded. Three of them serious. Doc is with them now."

Bow sighed to herself. Time to mourn later.

"I think we found a barracks, John." The big man snorted.

"No shit."

"I think it's time to call in the bombers. Garrick?"

"On it."

As the gunships rose away back to their ready position - troopers unboxing ammo from the gunships and generally decompressing - a flight of Huerdaen bombers soared in and carpet-bombed the entire area with ground penetrating nukes. From above it looked like the planet was having a seizure as first one, then a dozen giant craters formed and swallowed the entire airfield and surrounding warehouses.

"They hiss different than crabs."


"You know, when you fry them. They've got chitin like Clak-Tok, but when the moisture is burned out of them they sound different. Higher pitched. I need to ask why. Maybe their plates are closer together than crab armor?"

"Ma'am, I don't have the first fucking clue."

Hood was only listening to his lieutenant with half an ear. He had grabbed one of the worker's weapons during the retreat and was examining it closely. Not the greatest quality, but definitely not Huerdaen or some other national make. And not isolated, either. All the workers had been carrying them, and a lot of the warriors had been packing the bigger versions.

Making a note of it, he sent his findings up the chain to the intel weenies aboard the Black-Shrouded Mother. Let them figure it out. He had other things to concern him. Standing up, he moved down the line with his PL and went to help the medic.
"When you're as big as a Setulan, you can't go very long without breaking something. Usually someone else's face."-Xiscapia

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Democratic Socialists

Postby Xiscapia » Sat Jun 23, 2018 12:45 pm

Saint's Guard, Huerdaen Levy
Undercomplex Entrance...

Fire washed over the target area as Sei watched, studying the leaping flames and the falling husks of workers alike. The strike had been undeniably effective, but she couldn't help but feel a little guilty as the alien cries of the dying insectoids filtered through to her ears. She had to remind herself that they were the ones who had condemned this world; death by burning was too good for them. She was torn from her thoughts by the shouted warning from one of her troops, and just as quickly she was swaying from the explosion that vaporized an unfortunate man before ripping into the center of the overpass. Her sensors let her watch as it crumbled, a pair of her soldiers with it into dark and dusty depths.

Sei didn't think. She simply reacted, throwing herself over the side as her command squad yelled in alarm. The anthro ignored them, landing on her feet with a thud beside the mound of debris. A machinegunner, Setulanite judging by her size, was sprawled on top and moving weakly. Rifle fire began to crack from the overpass, and the roar of flames mixed with the hiss of smoke grenades fogging the company's positions, punctuated by the occasional bellow and crash of the bastion gun warding away the attackers. As her squad began to land around her Sei just pointed Janni to the groaning woman before digging her hands into the rubble, heaving chunks aside as she began to dig.

She was vaguely aware of Gozei and Vii coordinating a demolitions team to the bunker, but she didn't break her focus as Masato and Hannah joined her in clearing concrete. By the time a series of explosions made the ground shake she had uncovered the scratched and dented armor of the kitsune lying beneath the remains of the bridge. As the Setulanite woman sat up Janni moved quickly to the other patient, laying on hands as her scanners went to work. "She's still alive," the atoran confirmed. "I will call for a medevac."
Reassured, Sei turned away and climbed to the top of the shattered overpass to survey the field.

It was somehow worse than listening to the enemy scream as they burned. Everything had grown a sheet of black, cracked and warped by the heat to leave behind things almost unrecognizable. Here and there dark lumps were scattered about that she realized were Ikittitl bodies, curled up with limbs fused together in death. The very buildings all around had become monuments to the horror, walls blistered with bubbles like diseased flesh around gaping windows with frames twisted to remind her of screaming mouths. Looking away from it all down to the work of her troops was no better. Though the gun bunker lay silent with a smoking hole blown in its side, half a dozen of her troops were carrying three bodies between them back to the overpass. Two of them weren't moving, though the final one, a tod with bloody stumps for legs, shivered weakly in the arms of his rescuers. Sei's heart lurched. There was more work to do for the doctors and morticians.

Free from any enemy interference, she slid down the short slope and started to walk through the carnage. They needed the time to get the dead and wounded aboard an evacuation ship, and in any case the subway stairs lay open before her unit. "I want that first section scouted," she ordered, and a pair of Nogitsune obligingly broke off to advance on the objective. After carefully sweeping for traps they disappeared inside, and Sei was left with her soldiers as a Roc dropped out of the smoky sky and angled towards a nearby landing zone. It had just set down to take on the casualties when the scouts reappeared -none the worse for wear, Sei was relieved to see.

"There's one barricade close to the entrance, ma'am," the vixen reported. "We counted about two dozen thralls with heavy weapons backed up by a few workers. Looked to be an officer among them. They don't seem to be aware of us yet. We could get the drop on them."

"Right," Sei half-turned and almost jumped when she realized Gozei was standing right next to her. "Uh, Lieutenant."


"I want you to send a squad down into the tunnels," Sei recovered. "Have them bring stun grenades. The sonic effect should work on Ikittitl, so their objective is to capture that officer. We just might be able to interrogate it. Is that doable?"

"Yes ma'am," Gozei flicked her tail. "I'll put that Legion of Vengeance squad on it. They need something to do."

As the medevac Roc rose off the ground with its precious cargo Sei watched the LoV troops march by. The Setulanite troops were all a good head taller than she was, but each of them lowered their heads almost reverently as they passed her before proudly descending into darkness. She expected to soon hear a lot of booming and crashing, but even though her sensitive ears strained she couldn't hear anything below the earth. The big men and women were moving so silently it would make any kitsune proud: she didn't even realize they'd completed their attack until Gozei quietly confirmed it. Minutes later they came triumphantly back up top, lugging a tightly-bound worker lying limp and apparently dazed between several burly troopers.

"One bug officer, as requested," the staff sergeant nodded to her as they dropped the worker onto the blasted ground in front of her. By then the jacamine had floated over, towering over all of them with armored tentacles folded beneath him. Sei couldn't actually see its eyes, but she knew the giant cephalopod was staring at their new captive. The question didn't need to be asked: she simply nodded. In response he reached out and began to wrap his tendrils around the worker, turning his psychic powers to delving into a hostile alien mind.

"We have a backup plan if this doesn't work?" she glanced at Vii as the Huerdaen joined them. With his skepticism of psionics she knew he had to have some other ideas, even if he wouldn't have chosen to take a prisoner.
Xis quote of the week: Altaria Almighty: how are you not just a race of sexual predators? Like who needs power armour and gauss rifles when you have leather and whips. –Karaig
The Kitsune Empire of Xiscapia's FT Factbook (V2.5)
R.I.P. Shal - 1/17/10

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Founded: Apr 29, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Telros » Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:24 pm

Ghost Company, Tezekian Directorate Force
Sewers under the City

Sewers were many things in the nations and cultures of the galaxy; utilities to channel and control the more disgusting runoffs from being a collective species, a method to control disease and maintain health for all. For any and all soldiers who had to serve in any ground campaign, they served as an inevitable tactical weakness to exploit for the enemy, meaning you would have to slog through another species shit to get to your objective. The Imperial troops, especially the veterans, had come up with a game to pass the time when moving through it. They would, with the apathetic interest of a decades old bird watcher, see how the shit river they moved through this time differed from the last ones they had seen. They still maintained their watch, looking about them or paying attention to the drones they had deployed around their group, especially ahead, looking at wrist holographic displays to see if any hostiles or unknowns could be seen from time to time. Silver remained at the front, a ramrod arrow spearheading the group as they continued forward.

D: I'm telling ya, these people did not eat well, at all.

A: And when did you become a scientist of shit? Should've put a call out to the Foundations, have you singing the praises of ass droppings in no time.

D: I'm serious! The colorations and textures of that pile there! That's a clear sign of malnutrition, and we've seen too many of those here.

A: By the Archon, Darian, you take this game too seriously. I blame you, Csaló.

C: Oh, your misery is some of the best fun I've had in years.

D: What game guys?

A: No seriously Csaló. You took a boring pastime and made me hate it. When did I hurt you so badly?

D: Guys, what game?

C: This is what happens when you 'accidentally' swipe the last of my nestmate's meal she made for me.

A: Oh c'mon, I didn't know! It wasn't marked or anything.

C: It had beetles in it.

A: And they were delicious. I never knew eating insects was so good. You birds really found something else on the dietary scale?

C: I swear Anthan, one day, I'm going to swoop down and peck out your eyes.

A: Heart you too, nest muffin.



All side talk ended and their heads snapped up, followed by rifles as shuffling could be heard up ahead. They had come through a series of large pipes, with Second and Third Platoon coming from two other pipes that had met in one large common area that combined the various flows and continued moving them towards the city. A ramshackle wall of sheet metal and rubble that formed a crude defensive position met their eyes, their optics shifting with muted whirrs as they filtered out the light and the scene came into more focus. A loud report echoed throughout the section as a shot whizzed by some of their heads, causing some loud cursing with most crouching or finding what cover they could and pointing their guns towards where the shot came from. The discipline the Colonel had put into them held, as the order to open fire had not been given yet. Silver activated the link to his Second Lieutenant, as he assessed the situation.

S: Assessment.

SL: We're reading a group of thralls, about four, at the emplacement up ahead. That may have been a warning shot or possibly an errant one. The tone of that report leads me to believe the gun is very badly maintained.

S: Hold one. They're moving.

The thought to be thralls began babbling with each other, causing the soldiers to glance at one another as they went back and forth. They seemed to be some remnants of the old population in this area, holding out still against the bugs somehow.

"Just...gun to someone else..I...damnit, how do you suggest without telling people what to do?"

Silver and the Second Lieutenant glanced at each other as the first one who had been talking rose up, now weaponless, and peeked out. Many winced at the sight, while Silver stood impassively, not a feather out of place as they looked him over. One eye was blackened, skin clearing decaying or rotting almost out of his head and the black sludge they had seen on the captured intel was leaking down the side of his mouth.

SL: Sir, that's the bug's conversion weapon.

S: I know.

SL: Orders?

S: Have some of the rear support team members slowly line up shots on them, especially the ones still using their structure for cover. I want no chance taken. Only start once I have begun talking.

SL: Understood.

"Don't tell us what to do, okay? We...we can't help it. Just let us get out of here? If you don't give us orders, we can be us. We can think. We're still us. Right?"

Silver took one step forward carefully, watching the three respond as he did so. Two spooked a little but settled down, but one jerked his head to watch him, eyes wide and form trembling slightly.

S: Mark the one of the left and furthest back first. We have an unstable one, potentially.

Turning his attention to the rotting human, he slowly opened his arms away from his sides, letting them watching him do so and moving it away from his weapon, which remained clamped to his side.

“We have no intention on making you do anything, citizen. I am Colonel Silver of Ghost Company, Tezekian Directorate Armed Forces. We are here to help as best we can.”

At these words, two of the three at the barricade seemed to relax, lowering their weapons and moving up to join their comrade at the front, whom pointed his one good eye at the avian.

“So...are you, uh, here to help us? Let us get out? We can still be us, we can still help, I think? Just don't give us orders.”

Silver nodded. “We are here to help, as I said. We, along with others of our force fighting up above, as I am sure you can hear, got wind of how your world went silent. In this day and age of faster-than-light communications and galactic trade, when a planet goes dark, its an obvious hole. We came to investigate and see what the matter is and found you beset by the bugs, as you so put it. We're doing what we can to drive them back and rescue all the survivors. Now, to best help us with that, I'm only going to ask some questions, is that all right?”

They seemed to confer with each other, occasionally scratching at the decaying bits on their faces, and wiping away the sludge coming from their noses, mouths and ears. Damien managed to keep himself steady and prevent losing his lunch, but it was a hard sell. Csaló placed a hand on his shoulder, forcing him out of his reverie. The avian pointed a talon at him, then at his own eyes and then towards the humans. Getting the message, he nodded and focused back on sighting up his shot again, being the support team tasked with taking them down should they try anything. They came back and managed to nod their heads.

“That will be alright, I think? Yeah, we can answer questions, if you ask nicely.”

Silver nodded. “Thank you. Now, what's been going on here? How have you managed to survive so long down here?”

“'s hard to remember...we fought with the others above ground...I think, no here in the sewers...both maybe? The bugs hit our barricades but....but...”

Silver took one look as the man's eyes faded away and the other two seemed to have same the vacant expression and shook his head slightly. They were too far gone to be of any use for intel. A noise drew his attention as a couple drones neared the barricade and the one remaining behind began to make angry noises, waving his gun to and fro to try and ward off the drones. The other three turned to look back at their comrade, waving their arms to get him to calm down. Silver took this moment to walk off to the side, out of the way of his troops. His implant blinked on his HUD and he pulled it up with a mental command.

SL: Drones have completed their sweeps. There's explosives in the barricade, crude but enough C4 to bring the entire area down on us and cause severe casualties.

S: As I thought. These humans have nothing worth giving us, as per usual. Take them out, all at once. Then secure the explosives and see what we can do with them.

SL: As you command, Colonel.

Without missing a beat, as soon as their implants blink with the command, the four snipers fire, putting down each target with a triple shot burst to the head. All four pause and then slump down into the water, splashing some waste everywhere and then their lifeblood began to mix with the water around. As they moved to secure the barricade and engineers came forward to inspect the explosives pile, A could see their blood was mixed with the sludge that had been coming out. They were probably only hours away from full conversion or out right body death. The Colonel had granted them the mercy that was the only thing left for them; they would take it from here. The engineers did their search of the pile before the platoons were able to continue forward and the Colonel's decision was proven the correct one, as the explosives were found to be linked to the one remaining by the barricade via an trigger link around one of his ankles. It served as a motion sensor should they have moved away or even kicked at the pile.

Once the trigger was defused and they had partitioned off the C4 into bags carried by the engineers, the signal to go forward was given and the advance continued. At one moment, the column stopped as an alert was triggered by the scouting drones. Explosives were detected above their heads, but they were unclear as to what they were, other than being more advanced than the C4 they had come across. This was possibly a weapons stockpile, but there wasn't anything they could do that wouldn't reveal their position or bring the tunnels collapsing around them, so it was flagged and they moved on.

SL: Colonel, we're beginning to experience degradation of the sensor net here, the drones are having trouble reading anything that's more than twenty to thirty meters out.

S: I was wondering when we'd run into that. The ISN told us of the issues being able to see underground before we landed and that weapon they detonated was hidden from us through the same methods. We'll have to keep our eyes open but keep the drones out. Hunker down and send out the forward fire teams to see what's up ahead. We've dealt with one enemy trap, it is possible they have more down here.

SL: Yes, sir.

Most of the force formed into a defensive formation, making or finding what cover they could to allow them to hold should an attack come, while two squads were sent forward, with drone support. The squad leaders sent the command and their helmets began to flicker through the wavelengths of their visor ports, scanning as they carefully made their way forward. They had the secondary objective of the explosives on their HUD, and moved past them to see if they could find any opening or sign that lead to where these explosives could be.

Sergeant, found something.

Show me.

The soldier directed him to the hole in the wall, their flickering vision revealing nothing but a path going on towards the primary objective. Lights were turned on and filled more of the tunnel but only revealed more of the rock path, but little else.

Spread out, secure and scan this area. I want every and all details. I'm linking the Colonel, sit tight for further orders. Link me with any developments

Eight soldiers slowly spread out, taking cover and points throughout the area as they began to search, with one Sergeant visor flashing as he reached out to the main force.

SS: Colonel, we have something.

S: I'm here.

SS: We have a gash in the wall, looks busted from the inside out; possible explosives, possible raw force. Engineers are still looking into narrowing down the possibilities.

S: How does this change things?

SS: It leads straight to the objective, not the explosives above us, the operational objective for our theatre. A straight shot, sir.

S: So a trap?

SS: It's possible sir, but we could be wandering down here for hours before we find another path or finally let the bugs in on our presence here.

S: I see. Very well, secure that point and we'll move our forces in to support you.

SS: Yes sir. We'll hold the area.

The sergeant turned around to face the troops, only a few seconds passing for the entire conversation.

“Alright, we're to hold tight while the Colonel moves the rest of us here. We're going to be investigating this gash in the wall and see what's going on. It leads to our objective, so we'll have to be cautious. Alpha, you find anything yet?”

The other sergeant stood up and waved a hand. “Not yet, Beta. We're still looking to find what we can, but this area's pretty deserted.”

As if to mock that very statement, one soldier who had been scanning through the main tunnel region accidentally brought his boot down on a pressure plate and only felt his foot go down slightly. Still, the action made him jerk down, realize and broadcast on general link, even to the approaching force.


A series of beeps confirmed his words, forcing them to look up to see blinking lights of several demolition charges that then exploded, rippling explosions tearing away at the rocky surface of the roof, and sending the troops sprawling for cover from the shrapnel and the force of it. The roof began to come down in large chunks, crushing the troops underneath. One cawed in despair as he turned a second too late and a large boulder slammed down onto his lower half with the sickening crunch of bone and metal. No matter how augmented they had become under the Colonel's supervision, several tons of rock was not something you could armor against like this. Blood began to pool from under the rock and the soldier moaned, even as his armor suits nanite packages kicked in, moving to the damage areas to try and stem the bleeding and keep him from dying of shock. Another rock falling sealed his fate, however and left only a twitching talon exposed and yet more blood oozing out. He was not the only one to become the first Tezekian casualties of the operation, the explosions had, between rock, fire, and force, essentially obliterated Beta Squad. Two of their members had vanished into smoke, fire, and thrown bits of meat and metal from the sheer explosion, splattering several of their fellows, while one died from the rocks and the two others were severely injured by the trap. One was thoroughly crushed and distantly moaning as the nanites kicked in against most of the pain, but he was still dead if they didn't get him to a medic immediately, whilst the other had one arm and leg crushed but was pulling themselves through sheer effort back towards Alpha, leaving a smear of blood.

Alpha had not escaped it, either. The Sergeant had taken a solid rock to the head, so he was bleeding from one part of his face, his helmet throughout dented and mangled on one side. He sent the command for the nanites to kick in some painkillers so he could focus, ripping off the helmet which was now thoroughly useless. His left side of his face was a matted ruin, covering in a liquid gray mess as the nanites did what they could, forming a bandage around the area.

Definitely lost the eye, dammit.

Looking around, he could see two more members of his team were injured; rushing over, he joined the medic of the squad as they looked them over.

SS: Status

M: We have one here, badly burned by the explosion, we're looking at two degrees here. Thankfully the blast knocked her clear of the rocks so she escaped Beta's fate. She's not really in a good position to fight; nearly delirious from the pain.

SS: And the other?

M: Got hit hard by a spray of rocks, worked like blunter shrapnel, he's a mess on the inside. Pain meds are holding him together and he can still fight. Myself and the point man are doing alright, minor wounds.

SS: Well, get them as ready as you can and got her out of here the moment you can. The Colonel will be rushing to our position but I wager the bugs will have heard that.

M: About that....

His attention was drawn by the medic as they saw a now gaping hole in the roof that now served as an entry way into a room. From the ammo and weapon containers as well as the positioning of several bugs, it looked to be a guard room of some measure. And within that hole, blinking confused at them as the avians were at them, were two dozen of the confirmed worker-class bugs and two of the armored soldier classes.




The three remaining members of Alpha immediately sought cover, during which time one of the workers seems to gain his bearings and opens fire with his own weapon, a shot cracking out and completely missing them. But that seemed to rouse the whole grouping, who let out a keening hiss as one and began to unload upon the group. They were only fifteen meters apart, so to look up above what cover they had was certain death, as their weapons impacted with the rock, chipping away and filling the room with gunfire. The Sergeant put his rifle above the boulder he had his back to and pulled the trigger; his arm shook as the gun fired in his awkward position, blue flashes of light heralding the EM launched kinetic rounds towards the bugs. The medic took what pot shots she could, but she was focused on the heavily burned soldier, having dragged them to cover and the one hurt by shrapnel had come up by the point man and were heavily engaged with the bugs. He opened a link to the Colonel, his message terse and short.

Explosion revealed enemy guard room. Fourteen hostiles, twelve workers, two soldiers. Only have three combat ready soldiers, two injured, rest KIA. Will hold as long as we can.

The bugs began to move around the hole for better firing positions, keeping Alpha pinned down, while the soldiers began to exit the hole, dropping down onto the tunnel floor below. The member of Beta who was pulling themselves forward didn't have much time to do anything before a mass of organic armor landed on them, splashing the immediate area and the soldier with blood and guts, depressing what was left into the mix of sewage, dust and rocks on the tunnel floor. They opened fire with their guns, heavy weapons that took entire chunks away from the rocks. The point man had to shy away from his cover as it began to be cut away bit by bit, to avoid the tiny bits of granite shrapnel coming towards him.

We need to get some breathing room. Grenades!

All four members pulled out their grenades, which had a more cylindrical rather than fruit shape and then depressed the top, priming it which caused the dormant lines going down the sides to light up. They quickly threw it over the edge, between bursts of fire, and ducked back down, shooting up over the edge wildly to try and keep them distracted. While the hail of fire finished off the last member of Beta, a series of dull thumps signifying his end as a bug pincushion, the four grenades launched into the air activated micro jets on the bottom and sides, enabling to the maneuver whilst onboard sensor and navigation suits, tiny, simply but effective directed them to their targets. They were throwing blind, due to their situation so they simply shot into the hole where the main part of the bug force was situated, getting to their target range before exploding. Two managed to make it to above the bug workers, exploding and shredding those nearby with shrapnel, while one hit the lip of the hole, exploding and harming several more workers and dislodging some of the rocks, causing a few to fall onto the tunnel floor. One final one seemed to head for the hole but abruptly veered and came down head on to the back of one of the soldiers. It rocked back from the force, the pinging sounds of metal bits could be heard, but it only reared back for a moment, before regaining its footing and resuming fire. The blast also disturbed its brother, but only for less time, due to not being directly hit.

On the plus side the incoming fire had slackened thanks to this, so in alternating pairs, they rose up and began to burst fire down each of the workers they could, slowly eliminating them one by one. Blue-white flashes mixed with the muzzle flashes of the bug weapons as they exchanged fire. The workers, changing tactics after the grenade assault, began to pick off the drones floating nearby, reducing their ability to see around their cover during heavy waves of gunfire.

M: I'm losing our burn victim, and those soldiers are forcing us from the rocks. If we don't do something soon, we're going to be in the open.

SS: Our job is to hold, we need to do what damage we can and keep them pinned so the rest of the force can make their way to us.

Two loud reports echoed down the tunnel and one large explosion each hit the soldiers, letting out screeches of pain and rearing back. The workers attention was drawn, as that of the remaining Alpha members, to see two forward snipers laying on the sides of the tunnel with an anti-tank rifle each. Their arms automatically pulled back the lever, ejecting the shell used and loading in another before lining up another shot. Two squads were already moving up to reinforce their position; the Colonel had finally arrived.

The bugs, while having lost half of the workers, the remainder injured, were not ready to give up yet, not with both soldiers still in the field. One continued firing on Alpha while the other began to charge, seeking to breath through the weakened barrier.

“Oh shit. We need to move, Sergeant!”

“Grab our wounded and prepare a fighting withdrawal, Alpha!”

Gunfire lanced out between the two groups, peppering the workers, coilgun launched rounds shredding through their flesh as if it were paper, splattering the walls with green and purple blood and guts. The two snipers kept hammering at the soldiers, AT rounds impacting with effect, tearing away at their armor. The soldier in back took a hit to a leg joint, which brought it down and disoriented it fires. The other managed to shrug off one that hit at the wrong angle and came crashing into the barricade just as Alpha began to move. Thanks to their enhanced reflexes, they were able to dodge the incoming spray of rock, and begin moving back to the main group, but the point man was not so lucky. While he dodged the rocks, an arm of the soldier came rushing about and slammed into his side; he rolled with the hit and spun around to grab the arm and use its momentum and fling him further back towards his comrades. Unfortunately, while this cleared him away from the soldier, his trip into the air was not without consequence. The remaining bug workers noticed him and tracked their fire to him, several shots hitting his armor and and just as many piercing through, sprays of blood heralding their exits. The Sergeant, the medic, and the two injured managed to make it back to their own lines, the Sergeant hefting the burned one himself. One squad moved to get the point man who came crashing down, coughing blood, while the two others joining injured Alpha and laid down an enfilade of fire, with AP grenades launched at the soldiers remaining, with the AT rifles still firing.

Finally, the remaining workers were brought to bloody ruin, torn apart by the sheer amount of rounds, and the soldiers were picked apart, piece by piece. Each grenade sheared away armored plating, tearing meat apart and splattering the ground with blood, and the rifles finished them off by tearing through the exposed sections, vacuuming internal organs, armor and blood in a spray across the walls. They managed to take a few more steps before succumbing and collapsing onto the ground. Four more reports were heard, splattering the bodies more before orders were given to cease fire. The tunnel became silent once more, saving for the shifting of rock, the dripping of gore and the moans of the injured. Silver walked up to the Sergeant, who was being eased onto to a stretcher as the pain of his wound began to overcome his nanite package's ability to handle and the combat rush. His one good eye slashed towards the Colonel and his body stiffened as a salute was given. It was returned, with a nod, and he relaxed. Looking up, he signaled and two more squads began to moved towards the opened room, to secure and investigate, before turning his attention back.

“What happened, Sergeant?”

A bitter laugh mixed with a groan. “Bug trap, sir. They had pressure plates set up to detonate placed charges on the roof. It was designated to bring the roof down on us, which it was they did. Beta was pretty much killed instantly, between the explosions, and the rocks, as they had been closer. We were injured, but far enough away to regroup. The blast opened up what looks to be a bug guard room. Thanks to the rocks falling, we had some cover to try and deal with them, managed to hurt them pretty bad with grenades before you showed up. Smart buggers too; when they realized we used the drones to enable our grenades to hit without looking over, they began picking them off. Still have a few left.”

He took a pained breath and gathered himself to continue. “It's a good thing you only sent the forward squads, sir. If we had brought everyone, we'd have been torn to pieces.”

The Colonel simply nodded. “You did good, Yarrus. With Beta gone, and Alpha in the condition its in, we're putting you back to the rear. We have a station being set up further back in the area we dealt with the thralls. The medics there will take care of your squad for now. We still need to push on to the objective.

“Sir, if I may?”

Silver knew what was coming. “Yes.”

“How are my injured doing? Did the medics brief you yet?”

“It's bad, Yarrus. We'll have to get both privates injured through fire and through shrapnel to HQ. The former is going into shock and is unstable, and the latter's internal bleeding is becoming dangerous. As for your point man....I'm sorry, but they hit too many vital organs while he went through the air. He died of blood loss shortly after the medics got to him. Your medic is the only one able to still fight, and she's busy with the other wounded.”

Yarrus closed his eyes, his talons gripping into his gauntlet tightly. Silver nodded to the bearers who lifted him up and began carrying him back. The Second Lieutenant appeared as if summoned by Yarrus' absence and began speaking.

“Third and Fourth Squads have cleaned out the enemy guard room. No intel of note was found and limited exploration via drone signifies it's part of a greater complex, most likely more enemies. A hardpoint is suggested, but not confirmed.”

“Any sign of further reinforcements or enemy reaction?”

“None. We found a device that seemed to be an alert beacon; once triggered, it'd send a signal to have reinforcements come. It has been disabled, so it appears our triggering of the trap and subsequent fight took them surprise and allowed us to kill them before they thought of it. We also located a few enemy weapons and grenades, we've taken them for study and possible use if need be.”

“Good. Ready the remaining forces; we're going to leave two platoons here to guard our escape route and against any enemies coming through that hole. Have the engineers do what they can to set up fortifications we can use than just fallen rocks. The last platoon is going with me into that gash. We can only go one or two at a time, but its going to our objective.”

“It could be another trap, sir.”

Silver looked over the troops, eying the bags being used to put what remained of Beta into and the limp body of Alpha's point man. “It may be, but it leads right to our objective and I don't see a reason to awaken the hornet's nest that room is linked to. We proceed, Second Lieutenant.”

“As you say, Colonel.”

At his word, Second Platoon began to hunker down, while Third Platoon nursed its loss of two fire teams and First began to enter the hole. The going was slow, seeing as only one could go at a time, and they were met by bits of debris, roots, and sharp outcroppings of rock. Still, they made good time, with the drone going ahead to reveal the way; aside from the noises of curses from the soldiers and the sounds of steps, it was utterly silent. Silver cast his eyes about him, leading from the front of the line, watching the drone ahead of him finally break into a room, activating a light as it came into the chamber. Silver moved out, quickly taking stock of the situation; his ocular augments whirred as they moved between frequencies and began to zoom in. It was a large cavern of obvious construction, with carved support pillars every five meters or so.

#: Cavern discovered, support pillars every five meters. Secure each pillar for cover and move up, leapfrog style. Keep your eyes open, its too quiet.

They poured into the room while Silver and the forward members of First Platoon began to secure each pillar, moving forward, guns aiming around and covering as many angles as they could.

What is that smell?
Focus on your angles, Private.

I smell corpses, but I don't see any. Look out for any ambushes.

The troops linked back and forth trying to find the source of the smell, only for it to arrive suddenly on them. Silver's hand up shot up in a clenched fist, everyone halted as one and then eased down onto one knee, following his movements as he looked ahead. An order was sent to the drone which began to illuminate the area; the light revealed a massive gate, looked like an old wooden gate, covered in old symbols. It appeared ritualistic, with many worn lines on the floor showing its open and closing. It was what was showed in front of the door that drew their attention.

By the ancestors...

Are those Ikkitl?

I think so, but they have...wings. The Huerdaen said jack shit about winged bugs.

Maybe they lied to us, not wanting us to know something.

Huerdaen don't lie, chick. They may avoid telling you things, but never lie. They left this out.

Which begs the question as to why

S: Quiet.

Everyone shut up at the Colonel's order as he surveyed the scene, his fist unclenched, held up two fingers and stabbed downward. The Second Lieutenant came up and knelt next to him, gun moving in short bursts about as he cased the area. Silver, breaking protocol, spoke quietly out loud.

“What do you see?”

“I'm...sorry, sir.”

“Tell me what you see.”

The lieutenant blinked but continued.

“Well, sir, we have a new type of bug, or an unknown one to us from the briefing, in front of us, a lot of them. It looks like quite a battle went down looks like they fought...each other. Quite bloodily too...” The avian focused his light on his weapon down onto the floor and could see the various forms of weapons.

“I see weapons, many of them. Huerdaen. Dornalian. Vipran. Xiscapian. Even some of ours in there! It's practically a galactic armory.”

Silver nodded. “So we have established they had a stockpile of weapons somewhere and this group of bugs decided to kill each other to the last man. What else?”

“Uh...well, their blood's...coating the ceiling and pillars around them sir, and it looks...not that old. Died only a few days ago, from the coloration and hardening. I...don't see what you're looking for.”

“I'm not looking for anything, Second Lieutenant. I wanted to see how far you got compared to how far I got.” Silver pointed his gun at the ground, close the outer edge of the blood trail. The other officer would see a minor trail extending from the trail and he looked back to see it extended all the way back to the hole they came from. Another jerk of the Colonel's gun illuminated the area before the gate, showing blood streaking into the room. The office felt something churn in his guts.

“Someone went in and left after the battle royale they had here.”

Silver nodded. “Better, but still missing some details. There are no marks from the blood to show any of these bugs trying to leave. They simply went berserk and killed each other to the last, or whomever remained killed the last remaining one. Now, take a look at the door, you're missing something.”

The second lieutenant gazed at the door, both of their lights illuminating the door and the symbols but he's still not sure what he's missing. A command calls up the drone's sensors and has them relay what they're seeing. A program is running, identification running the symbols through their archives. Several are already identified and reading their notes turns the churning into a full chill through his body.

“That's...a door to the Queen's chamber, the one they warned us about.”

“Indeed, Second Lieutenant, but it's even better. Everything the Huerdaen gave us about the nobility was twofold; that they existed and their main chamber had multiple exits for the swarm to go and come and to provide many exits in case of the enemy breaching in. This has only the one, why is that? Don't bother answering, we don't know the answer yet. Now, call up first squad with me; we're going to take a look at what's inside. Have the remainder fan out and take defensive positions in case we disturb something.”

“Yes...Yes sir. Shouldn't we send a runner?”

Silver glanced at him, and then back at the door, his beak tapping in a sign the other officer knew as pensiveness. Eventually, he clacked in affirmation, “No, we need to know what's inside, so we don't have to send a second runner. Time may be of the essence here. You have your orders.”

The Second Lieutenant linked down the line, calling up the soldiers of 1st squad, who moved up with the Colonel as they carefully picked their way through the bodies, mindful to not disturb any in case there were more traps. They eventually reached the door, drone in tow, and the Colonel signaled. The drone extended its blooms and began an active ping of its suites to see what it could see on the other side. Data streamed down the Colonel's HUD:


Silver sent a no command and the drone climbed its blooms back into himself; he motioned that he was going to open the door and they all gripped their weapons. Carefully, he put pressure on one of the doors and slowly opened it; it gave way, indicating it had no lock or opening mechanism and nothing on the ground to stop its movement. The rest of the squad waited on baited breath, watching the Colonel's face for a sign. When his face took in what he was seeing, his eyes widened and his feathers all exploded outward in a clear display of shock; he closed the door, looked off to the side, as pale as a bird could be, and then opened the door again to look. His eyes almost half faded out of focus, he gestured and the drone went in and he closed the door. Silver walked back through the corpses, the squad starting at each other in open bewilderment before following, coming to a stop where the Second Lieutenant was waiting, clearly worried at his expression. He opened his mouth to speak, but Silver cut him off.

“Get your fastest avian over here, now. We need to report to the Huerdaen command; we need to report to everyone. We're missing something and I'll be damned if we get killed because of it.”

The soldiers around began to look at each other, lost for words, before the Colonel's words bit into them like ice. “Stop gawking like school age chicks; set up defensive positions focused on that door, and try to find a way to see if we can keep that door closed. Scavenge whatever you can. You'll get new orders when the time comes. Move!”

They scrambled to follow his orders while another ran up and saluted. Silver stepped close, and grabbed him by the shoulder, moving to whisper into his ear. The soldier stiffened at one point but simply remained listening until the Colonel was done.

“I'll get this delivered, sir.”

“Make sure that you do. Take this.” The Colonel removed an orb from a pouch and handed it to him.

“This will ensure he knows to leave you be until your task is done.”

The other saluted, turned around and then dug into the ground, rock actually cracking under the strength being pushed into his legs before he pushed off, rock shards spraying out from behind as he charged as a blur towards the hole. Silver turned to face the Second Lieutenant.

“Have some of the soldiers look through those weapons and pick out the best pieces; anything better than our own or has a unique technology, I want. All available space we have is to be used for them.”

“Aye sir.”

The soldiers began to get to work, inspecting the weapons as best they could, weapons experts and the more scientifically minded of them coming up to examine what they were looking for. Their own weaponry was rather far ahead for kinetic technology but the Huerdaen weapons had a power all their own they wanted to look into. However, priority was give to the the DEW weapons, as they hadn't found a way to managed containment systems to use energy weapons on the ground. Further, any technology that could further their energy containment technology had multiple benefits beyond ground weaponry, so those were focused on, along with some Ikkitl guns and any unique or stand out weapons that were different from the galactic norm or not really seen on most markets for study and possible integration.

The runner, in the meantime, finally came out of the tunnel and dug in his feet, charging forward again at high speed, only briefly slowing down upon coming to the aid station, whom could only watch, confused, as he accelerated again and ran on through. His muscles pumped, augmented by synthetic fiber and metal, allowing much greater endurance and acceleration, with his eyes able to help him avoid obstacles. It was within a few minutes he came jogging up to the rest of the company guarding the entrance. As he approached, he linked ahead, open channel:

#: This is Private Futó, First Platoon, First Squad. I'm here under orders from Colonel Silver, priority message for HQ and the Huerdaen.

The link carried the credentials copied to him from Silver, set to expire on end of message to prevent copying, that provided the backbone for his statement. The soldiers let up their weapons and motioned for him to move on. One of the soldiers reached out to ask a question, but one of the sergeants stopped them and shook their head. Another short jog and he came face to face with Captain Brass, whom looked up started to see the avian, whom saluted and received one in turn.

“Private Futó reporting, I have a message from the Colonel for HQ and Huerdaen command. We've...found something, sir.” He extended a hand and held out the orb; Brass took it into his hands, staring at it for a moment, before nodding. “Communications, get the Huerdaen on the horn and prepare to relay any and all tactical and strategic information gleaned to the other groups as well.”

For all other fronts on the planet, a message was sent from the Tezekian headquarters:


To the Huerdaen, a slightly different message was sent:






Directorate ORBAT:
1st Platoon: Digging In, Unharmed, Supplies Full
2nd Platoon: Digging In, Unharmed, Supplies Full
3rd Platoon: Retreating to the Rear, Nearly Wiped, Supplies Nearly Lost/Expended
4th Platoon: Dug In, Unharmed, Supplies Full
5th Platoon; Dug In, Unharmed, Supplies Full

Aerial Assets:
Sensor Drones: Deployed and Compiling Data, Unharmed, Sensor Map at 85%
Intercept Squadron One: Patrolling, Unharmed, Supplies at 90%
Intercept Squadron Two: Patrolling, Unharmed, Supplies at 90%
Drone Support Squadrons: 50% Deployed, Scanning Current Deployment, 40% Efficiency
Dropships: On Station, Waiting for Orders, Unharmed

Artillery Battery: Deployed, Waiting For Orders, Supplies Full, Unharmed
Supply Drops Available: 3
Victor Target Used: None

User avatar
The Rhustarim Hegemony
Posts: 124
Founded: Aug 20, 2011
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Rhustarim Hegemony » Wed Jun 27, 2018 6:10 pm

War Phalanx Yaradir
With the high ground no longer available, the Castigons had lost their vantage point over the enemy compound. The minefield lay between them and a direct assault, and without any knowledge on their penetrative power, the slaved networks were not willing to sacrifice materiel tempting fate. Even if the formidable shielding of the vehicles could tank the blast and prevent total destruction, immobilisation was a much more likely possibility. Patience and conservation were the priority, without any real logistical link to reinforcements, and the phalanx hardened its own position. Cormorants hovered above the formation, with the majority focused on their point defence against what remained of the mortar fire. Drone infantry clambered over ruins and broken ground to find cover, defending the heavier, less expendable machinery from thrall attacks. Here and there, where a mortar round fell past the point defence grid and a phoenicar's shields failed a drone splintered into a scattering of smart materials and circuitry. Other drones leaped upon the corpses of their companions, cannibalising the shrapnel for repairs wherever possible. Artillery fire came out in scattered bursts, a disparate percussion of thunderous railgun fire to litter the recorded position of enemy defenders - whatever had been seen from above. Every so often rounds seemed to fall short, slamming into the minefield and impacting empty ground to hurl loose soil into the air. Without access to reinforcements, Yaradir's phalanx locked itself down to avoid unnecessary risks. The minefield remained untested.

But the stalemate would not, hopefully, last much longer. With intelligence provided by the Directorate forces, and the ground split open by their own bombardment, a column of phoenicars separated from the main body and clambered across shattered rock into the depths of the local sewer system. Pausing for a moment to let their sensors adapt to the sudden change in 'atmospheric quality' (less single-minded machines might have made several crude jokes at this point), the unit split smoothly into two groups. Faced with two tunnels, and unwilling to risk losing the entire unit to a single trap, the phoenicars moved through the pathways at an even pace. Spaced into pairs to avoid getting in each other's way the drones spent the majority of their bandwith passing sensor data to one another. The confined environment was an incredible hazard and there was no time for even non-sentient idle thought. Ordinarily, the slaved networks of the phoenicars would be receiving constant updates from their controlling Intellect, and use their idle processing power to perform something that might - were they sentient - be construed as idle chatter to keep their own intranet active and under constant diagnoses. But here in the sewer the small collection of intelligences could not risk any kind of communication delay and were entirely on their own while Yaradir maintained the forces left on the surface.

It was the smaller of the two groups, moving cautiously down the more cramped of the two passages, that encountered the first evidence of OpFor defences. A single phoenicar that was moving with a partner a few steps ahead of the main body triggered a pressure plate. A shuddering update passed first through the group in the tunnel, before being passed through solid rock and concrete to the larger team in the adjacent tunnel. A single drone, nestled in the core of the squad, assumed the position of commander and pulsed out a series of intersitial command for the slave intellects to spread out as best they could. The group had barely managed to get any kind of spacing in the cramped environment before a sudden concussive blast struck the rear guard a few metres behind the main body. Although the shields of the drones absorbed the first blast, explosion after explosion rocked the tunnel in a string of energy bursts that followed the curve of the path. As the trap connected with the core body of the squad a phoenicar shield finally failed just enough to let the blast through. With a sharp shriek of failing metal and overloading batteries, a drone self-immolated before the rest of its unit could even process the telemetry it had sent out in its death knell. The blast had struck right at the centre of its body mass where, crouched serpentine to the floor, the full force had burst upwards through its chest and damaged its core. The unit had diagnosed itself out of action and, unwilling to sacrifice unit cohesion, disintegrated as it overloaded its surviving batteries. Its surviving companions took a moment to regard the incoming information, the self appointed Chieftain in particular pausing for a second longer than it should have needed to, the suddenness of the drone's immolation failing to find purchase in its circuitry.

One might have said it mourned, if one didn't believe that to be impossible. But the glitch was short lived and dispersed with the briefest fraction of focus - because the blasts were cycling back down the tunnel now. And there was nowhere else to go.

The larger unit had received the distress call the moment the pressure plate had been triggered, and only a few cycles later their Chieftain was polled for instruction. Ahead, down one of the sewers many alcoves an engine had burned into life. Even slaves could connect the dots as their companions came under assault and the larger group surged forward towards the energy source. Urgency crept into the network as the first casualty of their splintered formation was reported. A drone beside the Chieftain even broke formation, if only for a single step, as they neared the energy source. A small device protected by tripwries unveiled itself as the unit rounded the corner. Snapshots taken, information recorded for eventual upload to Yaradir, the engine was riddle with gunfire and silenced with extreme prejudice. In the meantime, the besieged group suffered a few more minor injuries as shields failed. A damage leg, a wounded sensor head - nothing grievous that would impact the unit's combat efficiency but enough to drive the damaged phoenicars to act as mobile shields for their companions, placing themselves between the predicted explosions and their comrades. The wounded, after all, were not as valuable as the healthy. The delay was minute, barely worth mentioning, but the loss of a full drone to such a simple trap was cause for reflection.

The drones moved more cautiously after that, and as the first reached the end of their tunnel they took pained efforts to dismantle a series of explosive ordnance. It had been rigged to eliminate a force approaching up the larger tunnel, and had the smaller Chieftain and its unit paused for too long they would not have arrived in time to disable it. As it was, the combined column reached a junction largely intact and two Chieftains merged into a single once again. The entire group settled for a moment. Hardware diagnoses and pathing data was passed around as the Chieftain briefed known above-ground telemetry. The target installation was definitely closer, and until the column reached it Yaradir was unlikely to perform any risk strikes with the more expensive units still weathering incoming fire up above.

The drones assumed their original formation. The damaged huddled in close to the core group, unable to provide satisfactory scouting intel, while four healthy drones moved forward ahead of the group. The four scouts linked into pairs, allowing them to prioritise shielding angles and better prevent another loss to some embarrassingly low-tech trap. The tunnel widened, providing the collective something that might have been relief in more reflective intelligences and allowing the troops to spread out. Not a moment too soon either, as another faulty misstep triggered a second pressure plate. The response was immediate, without even needing any time lag requesting a response from the Chieftain. The scouts diverted strength to their sensor nets, processing the incoming information to a finer detail and with much greater pace. They caught the warming up of a generator, hidden behind a small barricade up ahead and immediately opened fire. The cover was light, only barely more valuable than paper against the hegemonic weaponry, and the generator fell silent before it could even truly get going. By all reasonable metrics, the threat was ended.

But the unit remained stationary. Active sensors flared, passively gathered information was cycled over more times than it ever should have been. The Chieftain took initiative and forced the drones forward again. A few more rounds were sent screaming through the barricades but no enemy soldiers turned to pulp. No further traps were set off. The unit could at last move unmolested through the sewer system. As they delved deeper into the network and the water level rose and eventually they came upon a steep slope slick with wastewater. At the end, just before a sheer drop into a river that threatened to spirit away any unfortunate machinery, lay a gash in the brickwork and beyond it - light. The drones took their time descending the slope, both to minimise noise and to ensure not a single piece of the whole fell away. Limbs designed to anchor them in zero gravity, to scramble across loose asteroid surfaces and the slick ablatives of starship hulls, made the descent safe but not terribly quick. A few drones waited at the peak, weapons systems trained on the goal in case any sign of resistance dared to poke its head through.

The Chieftain watched as its companions sidled through the gash, attempting to form a stable connection with Yaradir. The attempts proved fruitless, and it wasn't until the forward units - consolidating on the other side of the broken wall - started sending reports of faulty sensor readings and glitches in their constant stream of communication that the Chieftain could discern the problem. Whatever device the local OpFor had been using to prevent scanning underground must have been nearby - and it was forcing faults into the phoenicar's drone network. Nothing bad enough to shut them down, LIDAR and basic RADAR should work just fine even if their more advanced sensor systems were facing too much interference to be reliable. But the slow down in inter-unit communication would diminish reaction times. And, worse, there was a chance Yaradir would never know if they were through or not.

As the last drone through, the Chieftain remerged with its unit towards the centre of the bloc and sank low to the ground. They were alone now, and their network was compromised. A small film of sewage sloshed about their pincer-limbs, and the hallway they had emerged into extended out in both directions. To the left, a slight slope lead downwards and away from their objective. If Yaradir managed to receive one of their data-packets, even a fragment, it would know they had breached the facility. And if not... They needed a moment to think, to plan.

A processing glitch flitted through the computronium core of the Chieftain, and its front limbs twitched. Its diagnostics could not find a reason why.
The Rhustarim Hegemony|State of the Galaxy
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